Celtics look to bounce back against Portland; Bucks & Rockets face-off in a battle of the league’s best offenses
Okay, so let’s talk about it. I got every basketball pick wrong yesterday. I picked the Jazz, 76ers, and Lakers. Instead, the Raptors, Thunder, and Pacers all came out victorious following yesterday’s games. You can’t get every prediction right all the time, but that’s not going to stop me from previewing today’s games. However, I will post a link to a tweet I sent out highlighting just how bad my picks were yesterday.
Anyway, there are six games on the NBA schedule today. I have decided that I will be previewing just two of them. The first game up is a fascinating matchup between two uncommon foes as the Portland Trail Blazers get set to take on the Boston Celtics. Later on tonight, the Bucks will face the Rockets as both teams look for their second win of the NBA Restart. At the moment, I am like the Eastern Conference teams over the Western Conference teams in these matchups.
Boston Celtics (-4.5) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (+4.5) at 3:30 PM EST
Our first exciting game of the day pits the Trail Blazers against the Celtics. Boston is hoping to bounce back from the tough loss they suffered at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday. Many Boston fans will tell you that they were robbed by the refs in the game, but a loss is still a loss. Meanwhile, the Portland Trail Blazers come into this game with a chip on their shoulder as they look to solidify a spot for themselves in the Western Conference playoffs.
These squads have been fairly evenly matched when facing off head-to-head in recent outings. The Celtics swept the two-game season series in 2018, but the Trail Blazers turned things around and won both games against Boston last year. Due to the NBA pause back in March, these teams have only played each other once this season. The Celtics were able to win the game 118-106 on the road, but I think the complexion of today’s matchup will be somewhat different because Damian Lillard did not play the first time these teams faced off.
Boston seems to have a better roster than Portland. Their overall records prove that fact. The Trail Blazers only managed to put up a 30-37 record before the season was paused. At the time of the NBA’s season suspension, Portland was the ninth-seeded team in the West. On the other hand, the Celtics entered the bubble as the third overall seed in the East with a 43-22 record. All that goes out the window though as these squads face off for the second time this year.
Portland comes into this one riding a strong win over the Memphis Grizzlies, who are also competing with the Trail Blazers and several other teams for one of the final spots in the Western Conference playoff race. It should come as no surprise that Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum exploded for 62 combined points in that game. However, the Trail Blazers were only able to beat the Grizzlies by five points in overtime. Portland allowed Jaren Jackson Jr to light them up for 33 points. This has me concerned about how the Trail Blazers’ defense will be able to contain a Celtics team that has a better and more explosive roster than the Grizzlies, especially in the frontcourt.
The Celtics and the Trail Blazers have similar offensive numbers. Portland puts up 114 points per game while Boston puts up 113. The Trail Blazers average almost 45.5 rebounds per game while the C’s average 46 boards per game. These teams even score at similar rates. Boston is 19th in Field Goal Percentage while Portland is 14th.
Defense is going to be the x-factor in this game. The numbers clearly favor Boston in that regard. The Celtics have the third-best scoring defense in the league. Meanwhile, the Portland Trail Blazers finished the regular season as the fifth-worst defensive scoring team in the league. Furthermore, the Celtics come into this one with the fourth-best shooting defense in the NBA and the third-best three-point defense in the league. As for Portland, they allowed opponents to make 37.6% of their three-pointers this season, which is the fourth-highest mark in the NBA. The Celtics’ defense will be able to close out the game when it counts as Boston covers the spread.
Celtics 108 – Trail Blazers 102
Milwaukee Bucks (-4.5) vs. Houston Rockets (+4.5) at 8:30 PM EST
The other matchup we are previewing today features a pair of teams that won their first games in the NBA Bubble. On Friday evening, the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Boston Celtics in a nail-biter 119-112. Later on, the Houston Rockets were able to edge out the Dallas Mavericks in Overtime for a 153-149 victory. I have a feeling that tonight’s game between these squads will be another high-scoring affair.
This will be the second game of the season between Milwaukee and Houston. The only other time these teams played was back in October when the Bucks traveled to Houston. Superstar guard Russell Westbrook made his debut in a Rockets uniform that night and was able to put up 24 points. However, James Harden was limited to less than 20 points while seven players on Milwaukee put up double-digit scoring figures. Despite trailing in the fourth quarter, Milwaukee would go on to win the game 117-111. I am expecting a similar result this evening.
The Rockets and the Bucks are currently the highest-scoring teams in the NBA. Both franchises are averaging 118.7 points per game, which has them tied as the top two scoring offenses in basketball. However, when you go down the stat sheet, you notice that there are many stark differences between these squads beyond how many points they are able to put up.
The Milwaukee Bucks are a better team statistically if you ask me, which you are because you’re reading this. The Bucks pretty much dominate every other meaningful statistical category beyond scoring offense. Milwaukee has a better scoring defense and a better shooting percentage from the field than Houston. Also, the Bucks average more assists and rebounds per game than Houston. The only category where the Rockets have a statistical advantage over Milwaukee is in steals per game. Beyond that, Milwaukee is much better than Houston.
Houston relies too much on high-volume scoring. Unlike their last game, I don’t think they will be able to put up 150+ points, especially not against the fourth-best defensive scoring team in the league. Furthermore, I think the Bucks will have an easier time limiting Houston’s role players as opposed to Boston’s role players. I do think that the Rockets will cover the 4.5 point spread, but I think the Bucks will be able to squeak out the close victory like they did against Boston the other day.