- The Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors are co-favorites to win the Eastern Conference
- Can the Celtics finally string together a series of impressive games?
- Are the Milwaukee Bucks being undervalued by oddsmakers?
Oddsmakers are banking big on Boston. The online sportsbook has the Celtics as the co-favorites to win the Eastern Conference at +225.
Brad Stevens’ squad of infighting underachievers shares the top spot with the Toronto Raptors, who are enjoying their best season in franchise history and have the second best record in the NBA.
2019 Eastern Conference Odds
|New York Knicks||+15000|
Seeing the Celtics and Raptors neck-and-neck is downright shocking considering how each team has performed during the first half of the season.
Toronto won 12 of its first 13 games to begin the year, and has already rattled off four winning streaks of five games or more. The Raptors are rolling thanks to one of the deepest and most versatile rosters in the NBA, and rank fifth in the league in plus/minus and sixth in net rating.
Boston, meanwhile, has dramatically underperformed after advancing to the Conference Finals in 2018. The Celtics began the season 10-10 and now find themselves fifth in the Eastern Conference after compiling their third three-game losing streak of the year.
The Celtics began the season 10-10 and now find themselves fifth in the Eastern Conference.
Boston’s erratic play has led to hand-wringing among management and finger-pointing among players. Kyrie Irving has been particularly vociferous, repeatedly throwing his teammates under the bus.
Things have gotten so bad, in fact, that Irving recently turned to LeBron James to pick his brain about how to lead and motivate his young charges. It remains to be seen whether the lessons he learned will take hold.
Is Boston Worth the Risk?
There’s no questioning Boston’s talent or experience, but the Celtics have been wildly inconsistent this season. Eight-game winning streaks have been followed by three-game losing streaks, seemingly erasing any positive gains or sense of momentum. For every victory against teams like the Thunder and Raptors, there have been head scratching losses to bottom dwellers like the Knicks and Suns.
Part of the issue has been injuries, as Irving, Al Horford, Jaylen Brown, and Aaron Baynes have all missed time with assorted issues, wreaking havoc on the Celtics rotations.
Kyrie Irving was visibly upset with Gordon Hayward following a bad loss to the Magic. pic.twitter.com/crR3XADR3v
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) January 13, 2019
Boston has also continued to force feed minutes to Gordon Hayward, who has looked tentative and indecisive for much of the season. Those reps should pay off eventually, but they’re not doing anyone any favors now.
Are the Raptors for Real?
Toronto appeared to be the beasts of the East until mid December when All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry was sent to the sidelines with a back injury. The Raptors went just 6-4 in his absence and were held to 96 points or less in three of those contests.
Ahead of tonight’s @Raptors action on ESPN, we showcase Kyle Lowry taking charges!
— NBA (@NBA) January 16, 2019
As good as Kawhi Leonard has been, Lowry is still the engine that powers Toronto’s offense. His balky back and history of repeated playoff failures should make bettors think twice about betting big on the Raptors.
Where is the Real Value?
You won’t find much value in the Celtics or Raptors at their present odds of +225. If your money is burning a hole in your pocket we’d recommend laying it down instead on the Bucks at +400.
Milwaukee presently has the best record in the NBA and has fared well against the East’s elite, going 2-1 against the Raptors, 1-1 against the Celtics, and 1-0 against the 76ers.
Giannis dunk✈️Giannis block pic.twitter.com/tkVTT53Gcc
— Bucks Nation (@MKEBucksNation) January 17, 2019
Their sparkling analytics also paint a picture of a top flight team. The Bucks rank in the top five league-wide in offensive rating, defensive rating, and net rating, and are among the league leaders in points, rebounds, and assists.
Add it all up and you have a team that’s being criminally undervalued by oddsmakers. Pounce on the Bucks’ odds now before they wise up.
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