Celtics at Raptors NBA Prediction for October 19
Coming into the 2018-19 NBA season, most believed that the Boston Celtics would rise to the top of the Eastern Conference now that LeBron James if plying his craft on the west coast. With the Cleveland Cavaliers expected to nosedive down the standings this year, the Celtics seem best positioned to seize the newly-vacated top spot. The team’s season opener did little to quell the enthusiasm surrounding them, as they opened things up with a relatively breezy 105-87 win at home over the Philadelphia 76ers.
While the Sixers may ultimately prove to be a viable competitor for the Celtics, the team that figures to give them the most trouble is the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors finished last season as the No. 1 overall seed in the conference before being disgracefully swept in the second round of the playoffs by LeBron and the Cavs. After yet another bitter playoff disappointment, general manager Masai Ujiri took the bold step of trading the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl were shipped to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for disgruntled star Kawhi Leonard as well as swingman Danny Green.
The first game of the Kawhi era was a good one for the new-look Raptors, as they were able to exact a bit of revenge against the watered-down Cavs by the score of 116-104 on opening night.
Friday brings us our first taste of the budding Raptors-Celtics rivalry. Boston will hit the road and take on the Raps from Air Canada Centre on Friday night.
Second-year swingman Jayson Tatum was the story for the Celtics against the Sixers. The former No. 3 overall pick led Boston with 23 points on the night on tidy 9-of-17 shooting from the floor. Outside of Tatum, the Celtics’ scoring was pretty evenly distributed. Kyrie Irving struggled quite a bit, making just 2 of his 14 looks from the floor on his way to just 7 points. Boston’s roster is so heavy with talent that they can still manage to win games pretty easily even if their No. 1 scoring option is having an off night.
Gordon Hayward also looked solid in his first full regular season game in a Celtics uniform. The former Jazzman bagged 10 points along with 5 rebounds in 25 minutes of work. Head coach Brad Stevens says he plans to limit Hayward to somewhere between 25 and 30 minutes in the early stages of the season as he continues to work his way back from the broken leg he suffered in the first game of last season.
The Celtics held the 76ers to just 39.1 percent shooting from the floor in the opener while also limiting Philly to just 5 3-pointers on 26 attempts (19.2 percent). Boston’s stingy defense will be one of the primary reasons we are likely to see this team in the Eastern Conference Finals once again, at worst.
As for Toronto, Leonard put up a nice game in his debut. The former Defensive Player of the Year scored 24 points and hauled in 12 rebounds in 37 minutes of work. Toronto also got a nearly impeccable offensive game out of Kyle Lowry, who led the team with 27 points on 10-for-12 shooting from the field. Lowry also hit 5 of his 6 attempts from beyond the arc.
The Raptors weren’t quite as tough defensively as the Celtics were on opening night, but they still largely held the Cavaliers in check. Cleveland shot just 40 percent from the floor in Toronto the other night while connecting on better than 36 percent of their looks from deep. Depth is one of the Raptors’ best attributes. Toronto ran a legitimate 10-man rotation against Cleveland, while that may expand to 11 whenever Delon Wright returns from injury. Wright will miss tonight’s game with a leg issue.
These 2 teams split their 4-game regular season series a season ago with the home team winning all 4 games.
Boston was the best team against the spread in the league last season. Boston went 62-37-2 against the spread, which is a winning percentage of nearly 63 percent. The Raptors ranked eighth in the same category with a winning percentage about 10 points lower. The Celtics are listed as the underdogs here tonight with the game taking place north of the border. The Celtics also had the best winning percentage as an underdog last season with a record of 24-11-0 (68.6 percent). As a favorite, the Raptors went a much more pedestrian 38-36-1.
I like the Celtics here. I think this is a potential statement game for Boston. While I do like the Raptors’ chances of making a run to the Finals, I also think this is a team that will take more time to gel. Incorporating a high-usage offensive piece like Kawhi Leonard generally takes time. It’s also worth remembering that the Raps are getting used to playing for a new head coach in Nick Nurse. They looked good in the opener, but nobody thinks much of the Cavaliers this season.
Obviously, the Celtics present a far taller task for the Raptors. Boston may well be the best defensive team in the game, and having Brad Stevens patrolling the sidelines doesn’t hurt matters. I like the Celtics’ chances of winning this game outright, so you can attack this game as a bettor either via the spread or the moneyline. You can take the Celts to cover the 3-point spread at -113, but the better betting value comes with taking Boston to pick up the win at +130. The Celtics won’t be a team that provides much value on the moneyline this season, so this is a rare chance to take advantage.
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