Rajon Rondo had a strong tenure in Boston between 2006 and 2014, making four All-Star appearances. The 31-year-old point guard will return to his former home arena with his 22-20 New Orleans Pelicans, who will play the 34-10 Celtics today (7:30 p.m. ET Tuesday on NBA TV).
Both squads are playing well right now, though the Celtics have been better. Boston has used an easier schedule as of late to build a seven-game winning streak, while the Pelicans are currently on a stretch of seven wins in 11 games.
This game features two strong teams that are reasonably healthy, which is always fun. Let’s break down the game’s key determining questions and decide how the betting lines will play out with our concluding Pelicans vs Celtics predictions and picks.
Will Jayson Tatum’s Knee Be a Problem for Him?
Tatum banged his knee in the Celtics’ game against the Philadelphia 76ers last Thursday. Thankfully, the MRI came back negative and he is probable to play today.
Assuming he does, then he and Jaylen Brown will be a nightmare wing combination for the Pelicans to deal with. New Orleans’ big weakness is length on the wings, as it starts Jrue Holiday (6’4”) and E’Twaun Moore (6’4”) at the 2 and 3 spots. Tatum is 6’8” and Brown is 6’7”.
If Tatum’s knee feels good enough to go and play well, he will be a major mismatch for either Holiday or Moore. He can rise up for jumpers over both and dominate both in the post, if the Celtics look to him there.
On defense, the rookie is also solid and has both the quickness and length to cover either Holiday or Moore admirably, if he’s not too limited with his knee.
Can DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis Prioritize Inside Shots Early On?
The Celtics’ starting lineup (Kyrie Irving, Brown, Tatum, Marcus Morris and Al Horford) is extremely versatile on defense and offense. Unfortunately, it is weak against strong, skilled big men.
Cousins and Davis both fit that description. New Orleans’ two All-Star big men are obviously the strength of the team and average a combined 52.2 points, 23.1 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 2.6 steals and 3.7 blocks per game.
The Celtics do have two hulking big men that they bring off the bench: Aron Baynes and Daniel Theis. Therefore, Cousins and Davis must do their work inside against the smaller starting frontcourt. Once the subs come in, they can take the jumpers both of them like so much, since they will have already gotten into a rhythm.
Will the Celtics Look More Rusty or More Rested?
Boston is in the midst of a very light portion of its schedule right now. Tonight will be the Celtics’ first game since January 11. For the Pelicans, it will be their third contest. Each of New Orleans’ past four games have been tight affairs with margins of victory that were six points or under.
The Celtics might be a bit rusty, which could manifest itself in missed jumpers and off-target passes. However, their rest could also manifest itself in a more energetic performance that sees them push the pace and get after it on defense.
Boston should definitely have a great performance in it after such a long layoff. It might just be a matter of how much this game matters to them.
Our Preview’s New Orleans Pelicans vs Boston Celtics Betting Picks & Predictions
Boston is the solid favorite to win at home. The Celtics are 18-5 at home, while the Pelicans are 11-11 on the road. Boston’s two-way dominance seems to have returned, while New Orleans’ defense is still a concern. As a result, the New Orleans Pelicans vs Boston Celtics predictions for this preview look like this:
- The Celtics are favored by 4.5 points with the best of the sports betting websites, which doesn’t seem like much considering the record difference, home-court advantage and the fact that they are on a seven-game winning streak.The obvious bet here is going with the Celtics -4.5 @ -110 with 5Dimes or Bookmaker.
- Boston should try to remedy its restlessness after a long layoff with a faster pace. Also, I see each team having players on the opposition that are hard to defend (the bigs for the Pelicans and the wings for the Celtics). Place your money on this game going over 214 total points with Bovada, 5Dimes 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.