Pelicans vs. Celtics Odds
|Moneyline||+150 / -180|
|Time||Monday, 7:30 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Sunday and via PointsBet|
The season seems to have gotten away from the New Orleans Pelicans. Sitting 12th in the Western Conference and 3 1/2 games behind the eighth seed, the playoffs are likely unreachable. This may have New Orleans leadership thinking of next year already.
The Boston Celtics are in a much better position, sitting seventh in the Eastern Conference but only one game back of the fourth seed. To help their late-season run, the Celtics traded for Evan Fournier at the deadline. Only time will tell if it will be enough to get them a home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Let’s look further to see who has the edge in this matchup of teams headed in different directions.
New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans sending J.J. Redick off, despite struggling from behind the arc, is a sign they’re focused more on next season instead of this one. Redick was having a subpar season relative to his standards, but the Pelicans’ 21st-ranked shooting is now even weaker.
Despite their struggles, New Orleans has found a way to have the seventh-best Offensive Rating at 116.6, per Basketball-Reference. The man making the difference for this offensive attack has been second-year star Zion Williamson.
Questions rightfully exist about Williamson’s shooting and ability to defend. However, at only 20 years old, his obscene physical prowess has made him unguardable. Enforcing his will on opponents has led to 26.3 points per game on 62.8% shooting from the floor.
While their offense has played well all year, the Pelicans’ defense has needed major improvement. New Orleans’ 116.0 Defensive Rating sits as the third-worst in the NBA. The main reason for the defensive struggles has been their struggles guarding the 3-point line. New Orleans allows teams to shoot 39.1% from deep and teams have taken advantage, shooting 39.4 3-pointers per 100 shot attempts.
Without much of a defense, the Pelicans have looked to outscore their opponents all season. With even less perimeter shooting than before, wins might be even more difficult to come by down the stretch.
At 4-6 straight-up in their past 10 games, the Celtics have done little to help their playoff situation. To remedy these struggles, Boston brought in Fournier from Orlando to add some pop to their offense. Unfortunately, health and safety protocols will likely force Fournier to miss Monday’s game.
The Celtics will, however, have Kemba Walker, who sat out Saturday for rest. Walker will have more value than typical against the Pelicans because of the potential absence of Lonzo Ball, who is listed as questionable. The year has been rough for Walker, but he has improved his scoring efficiency each month per Basketball-Reference. Continuing that trajectory will go a long way to improving Boston’s playoff status.
Walker’s improved play has been reflected in Boston’s offense as a whole. Throughout March, the Celtics Offensive Efficiency has soared all the way up to 117.8 and fourth in the league, according to NBA Advanced Stats. This comes thanks to their 3-point percentage ranking second in the league in March at 40.4%.
For as good as the offense has been, the Celtics face similar troubles to the Pelicans on defense. In March, Boston’s Defensive Rating is a putrid 115.6. This trend may continue as the Celtics will likely be playing shorthanded inside. Daniel Theis was traded, Tristan Thompson will likely miss for health and safety protocols and Semi Ojeleye has a side injury.
Missing these bigs didn’t hurt against Oklahoma City on Saturday, but the Thunder don’t have a menacing force like Williamson.
Both Boston and New Orleans bring a strong offense and struggling defense into this matchup. The difference in how they score could be the deciding factor in this matchup.
The Pelicans look to attack inside to utilize Williamson’s supreme physique. However, without Ball and Redick, the Pelicans will be missing two of their four players with at least a 35% 3-point percentage. This means Boston can play closer to the hoop and make life more difficult for New Orleans’ interior attack.
On the other hand, Boston looks to shoot from the outside and in isolation. This will play right into the weaknesses of the Pelicans. As mentioned above, teams attack New Orleans with the 3-ball and it has shown no capability of stopping it. The absence of Ball will also make it so New Orleans struggles to match up with the multiple options the Celtics can turn to in the isolation game.
In a game where both teams focus on offense, I find turning to the team that counts by three instead of two typically gives an edge. In this case, even if Williamson can continue scoring efficiently inside, Boston will be hitting too many 3-pointers for the Pelicans to keep up.
Back Boston to continue their offensive success.
Pick: Celtics -4