They are on different ends of the Eastern Conference standings, but the 27-10 Boston Celtics hit the road for an NBA contest against the 12-21 Charlotte Hornets today (7pm ET Wednesday).
This game could be surprisingly competitive, given how the Celtics are playing recently and the fact that it will be played in Charlotte, where the Hornets play much better. Boston also is without starting forward Marcus Morris, and will probably also be without starting swingman Jaylen Brown and key reserve Semi Ojeleye.
Given what we know about the recent trends for these teams, let’s sift through some major X-factors for the contest tonight and then make our betting predictions. This preview will try to beat the top rated bookies for USA online betting with our picks.
Can the Celtics Hold Off Their Regression on the Glass?
One of the Celtics’ top Achilles heels last season was their rebounding. It definitely hurt them in their Eastern Conference Finals loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
This year, on the whole, has been a pleasant surprise for them on the glass. Boston ranks a solid 13th in rebounding percentage, using its athletic wings and banging big men off the bench to raise its mark from last season.
However, the Celtics rank last in the NBA in rebound percentage in their last eight games. It’s a big reason why they’re a mere 4-4 in that stretch.
Charlotte, led by Dwight Howard, is a very tough team on the boards. Boston is down some key forwards in this matchup, and the squad may not have the athleticism and strength to win the rebound game.
Is Jeremy Lamb in For a Big Performance Off the Bench?
The Hornets badly need more efficient shot-creators. Right now, with Nicolas Batum playing poorly, the team has a star (but not superstar) floor general in Kemba Walker and Lamb off the bench to provide offensive punch from the perimeter.
Lamb is especially key in the matchup, because Boston doesn’t really have an equivalent player coming off of its bench. The Celtics’ reserves are mostly defensive-minded guards or interior bruisers. Lamb is easily the top offensive player on either bench.
The 6’5” shooting guard has already gone for 32 points against the Toronto Raptors, 27 points against the San Antonio Spurs and 24 points against the Washington Wizards this season. He’s clearly not fazed by top-level competition. Can he put his best foot forward against Boston?
Will Boston Cure Its Fouling Problems Of Late?
Aside from rebounding, the foul-shooting difference has been the Celtics’ biggest culprit in their recent stretch of mediocre ball. In the team’s last 13 games, it has attempted more free throws than the opponent just once, and even that was an advantage of just one free throw (19 to 18 against the Utah Jazz on December 15).
In the aforementioned stretch, the Celtics are taking 18 freebies per game, while their opponents are taking 24. That’s a massive difference.
Charlotte is the leading foul shot attempting team in the league this year. Center Dwight Howard’s physicality around the rim and poor shooting is the biggest reason why, but plenty of other players are also adept at forcing refs to blow their whistles.
Our Preview’s Boston Celtics at Charlotte Hornets Picks & Betting Predictions
The Celtics seem to be regressing to the mean and they are also banged up quite a bit right now. Charlotte is better than their record suggests, considering their not-too-bad point differential and the fact that they have played the toughest schedule in the league this season. The Hornets’ rebounding advantage and ability to get to the free-throw line should be noticeable in this contest.
The Hornets are also an entirely different team at home than on the road this season. Charlotte has beaten six teams in playoff positioning at home this year, compared to just one on the road. Here are our preview’s Celtics vs Hornets predictions:
- The posted line on this game may be somewhat surprising at first glance, given the fact that the 27-10 Celtics are just 1.5pt favorite against the 12-21 Hornets. However, given the Celtics’ injuries and regression and the Hornets being healthier, better than their record and much better at home, they are actually a smart bet here. Go with the Hornets +1.5 @ best odds of -110 with Intertops.
- Betting sites are also unanimous on this contest having an over/under of 206. The loss of some defensive-minded forwards in this matchup means both squads could skew more towards offense than usual. The pick is to bet the over 206 @ -110 with either Bovada or Bookmaker.
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.