Bettors get a potential preview of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night when the Boston Celtics host the Sacramento Kings.
At Sacramento, the Boston Celtics will wrap up their six-game road trip, during which they went 3-2 SU and 2-3 ATS. Their most recent loss came as a 4.5-point favorite at Utah. The Kings also lost 128-120 to the Jazz on the road, and now they must quickly turn around and host one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
Here are my best NBA picks and predictions for the March 21 matchup between the Celtics and the Kings, including my analysis of the point spread and the Over/Under total for this high-powered non-conference showdown.
Celtics vs Kings picks and predictions
Tuesday’s game could be a preview of a potential championship matchup, but neither defense will be at playoff level tonight.
The lack of defensive prowess displayed by Sacramento against Utah Thursday night was on plain display, as the Jazz scored 128 points despite needing their All-Star player, Lauri Markkanen. Utah scored 40 points in the first quarter and shot 52% from the field.
While the Kings’ recent road trip did include some defensive improvement, it was likely attributable to the higher quality of opposition rather than any actual improvement by the Kings’ defense. Yet, tonight Boston brings a much more dangerous assault to Sactown than the pop-gun attacks they faced from Chicago (114), Brooklyn (96), and Washington (118).
The Celtics have struggled defensively and offensively since the All-Star break, but Boston’s offense has shown some strength on this road trip. The team’s two days off before facing a Kings defense that will be tired after playing at a high altitude in Salt Lake City the night before should help the Celtics get back on track for this game.
If Sacramento hesitates too long when trying to defend the three-point shot tonight, the Kings could be in trouble. In the first five games of this road trip, Boston has averaged more than 43 three-point attempts per game, making 16.2 of them (37.3% of the time).
The Kings rank 27th in the league in allowing opponents to shoot more than 37.5 percent from 3-point range inside their home arena this season, resulting in an average of about 13 made 3-pointers against per game. This month, opponents have been able to make 14.5 threes per game because of their shoddy defense from deep.
This game could become a sprinting match due to Sacramento’s potency and offensive tempo. Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla encourages his players to take lots of threes, as long as they make their free throws.
The Kings aren’t the only club that consistently ranks near the bottom in defensive stats; the Trail Blazers, who Boston recently faced in Portland, are just as bad. The Celtics put up 126 points on 47% shooting and hit 15-of-42 three-point attempts. They will score more than 122 points tonight.
Celtics vs Kings spread analysis
Oddsmakers made Sacramento a 3.5-point home underdog in this matchup between two of the league’s best teams.
The market has shifted toward Boston, with the spread growing as large as Celtics -5 early Tuesday afternoon due to the Kings having to play in Utah on Monday and then travel overnight back to Sacramento should they lose.
After Saturday’s loss in Salt Lake City, Boston will have the advantage of fresher legs. Joe Mazzulla’s team might have benefited from a longer vacation from competition and from the pressures of life back home. The Celtics are 7-6 SU in their last 13 games following the All-Star break, but their ATS record of 5-8 will leave any backers feeling burned.
Boston’s inconsistent play on defense has been its main weakness over the past few months, as the team has seen its defensive rating plummet from fourth (110.6) before the break to fourteenth (113.9) after the showcase. With center Robert Williams returning to the lineup for the first time since March 3, the team should get a boost of energy on both ends.
Last night in Utah, Sacramento hit a snag and failed to show up in what could have been a preview of this big showdown. The Kings, who had won two of their previous three games since the All-Star break, fell short in this one after being outscored by the Jazz, 40-19, in the first quarter.
The Kings will play their home games at the Golden 1 Center, where they have a season-long net rating of +5.0. It will just be its second visit to Sacramento in the previous seven games when it faces Boston on Tuesday. The squad has played only six home games since the break. The Kings have a 17-17-1 record against the spread at home this season, including a 5-4 mark as home favorites.
Celtics vs Kings Over/Under analysis
The opening total on Tuesday was 238.5 points and has since risen as high as 239.5, with the current total fluctuating between 239 and the opening total at various books.
The Kings’ offensive production increases to 124.2 points per home game, leading the NBA in advanced rating and points per game. Sacramento’s defense was stronger than it once was, and it has been much worse since the break, with the Kings allowing roughly 120 points per game in their 10 November contests.
Sacramento has gone 36-34-1 OVER/UNDER this season because bookies have been open about adding points to their weekly totals. Yet, since the All-Star break, the Kings’ 9-4-1 Over/Under record needs to be more to compensate for their struggling defense.
Boston has the firepower to target that vulnerable defense, and despite offensive inconsistency, the Celtics are still scoring almost 117 points per game.
The offense has been the club’s strength on this road trip thus far. Against weak opponents in Utah, Portland, Minnesota, Houston, and Atlanta, the team has improved their offensive rating to 119.9.
That has led to a 3-2 O/U record in those games against some high totals (went Over 233, 234.5 and 238.5). Check out the latest NBA betting odds. During the All-Star break, Boston’s O/U record is 7-6, and they are 14-22-1 on the road this season.