- The Boston Celtics have seen their NBA Championship odds shorten significantly despite an overtime loss to the Houston Rockets over the weekend
- Jayson Tatum has taken his game to an All-NBA level in Kemba Walker’s absence
- Are the Celts the Bucks’ biggest challengers in the Eastern Conference?
The Boston Celtics were an outsider in the NBA Championship odds at the start of the campaign. Milwaukee and Philadelphia were the frontrunners in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics lived in that group with the Denver Nuggets and Houston Rockets, looking to chase down the Los Angeles teams and the East’s two favorites.
Priced at +1000 to win it all, the C’s are yet to infiltrate the top four, but the betting has them as outright fourth favorites, ahead of the Rockets and comfortably in front of any other Eastern Conference franchise.
2020 NBA Championship Odds
|Los Angeles Lakers||+275|
|Los Angeles Clippers||+350|
Odds taken Mar. 2nd
Superstar Jayson Tatum
Jayson Tatum has ascended to superstardom. He’s scored 31.5 points per game over his last 10 games on over 50% from the field and over 47% from deep. He’s up at 8.5 boards per night over the span too.
The Celtics’ offense has shared the load, ball movement has been the foundation of Brad Stevens’ offensive philosophy. They have several guys who can take over, but Tatum’s performances since he was named to the All-Star Game have been a different level. He has confirmed himself as the number one option.
Tatum has been handling the ball much more this season – he’s the pick-and-roll ball handler on 5.4 possessions per game in 2019-20, that number was down at 2.4 last season.
His usage rate is over 30% in his last 10 games. Some of that is his role increasing as he puts up massive numbers, but the absence of Kemba Walker has helped him too. It seems inevitable that Tatum’s role will shrink slightly when Walker returns (they each had usage rates over 26% in November, when they played all but one game together).
The East has been a rollercoaster this year. The Miami Heat looked legitimate challengers for much of the season, but they have hit a rough patch with their defense ranking in the bottom third of the league since the break. Victor Oladipo’s post-injury struggles have hurt the Pacers. Toronto have overachieved, and been a brilliant story, but they have lost three in a row. Injuries to Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons leave the soap opera Sixers in a cloud of uncertainty.
🎥 Wasn't the outcome we wanted, but helluva night for @SniperShake.
39 PTS | 3 REB | 5 AST pic.twitter.com/BNmB3xKSdv
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) March 2, 2020
Boston have dealt with injuries, and a few disappointing losses. It has been a calm campaign compared to the Kyrie Irving-led drama of 2018-19. Tatum has taken ‘the leap’, Jaylen Brown is knocking down shots and defending superbly, and Daniel Theis is proving to be a serviceable center.
Walker’s injury looms over their campaign. While his absence wouldn’t rule them out, it lowers their ceiling and exposes a flimsy bench, which ranks 29th in points per game.
The Celtics are the Bucks’ closest challenger in the Eastern Conference. Miami, Indiana and Philly are dealing with potentially season-crippling issues, and while it would be reckless to forget the Raptors, they would be the underdog in a series against the Celtics if it started this week. Tatum gives Boston that elite star they needed.
SHEESH GIANNIS. pic.twitter.com/7vyadAHR35
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 1, 2020
With the C’s likely to take the two-seed before the season is out, this could be the best time to back them to win their first title since 2008. Walker’s return, and the longer this Tatum purple patch continues, will see support for them as title contenders grow.
Question marks remain about how they deal with Giannis Antetokounmpo in a postseason series. They have size and a top-level defense, whether they have enough will only be revealed if the teams meet in Spring.
Stevens’ team deserve their best-of-the-rest status.
Pick: Back Celtics at +1000
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