Saturday, December 10 is an NBA Finals rematch that has all the makings of an instant classic. The Boston Celtics absorbed the disappointment of last year's Finals loss and have rebounded to become the NBA’s best team. The Golden State Warriors emerged triumphant in last year’s clash but have had a much bumpier start to the season.
Still, the Celtics will have to play at their best to outdo Steph Curry and the champs, who have been a dominant team at home this season. Both teams will be highly motivated for tonight’s contest.
Our NBA picks and predictions for Celtics vs. Warriors have Boston taking advantage of the absence of Andrew Wiggins and getting a measure of revenge for their Finals defeat.
Celtics vs Warriors best odds
Celtics vs Warriors picks and predictions
Fresh off demolishing the Phoenix Suns, who themselves have torn through the rest of the NBA, the Boston Celtics look almost unstoppable of late. FiveThirtyEight's Elo forecast currently gives the Celtics a 39% chance of hoisting the Larry O’Brien this summer, with no other team having a greater than 10% chance themselves. Similar models have them predicted to finish 10+ wins clear of the rest of the field. They are the definition of dominant.
And yet they appeared that way last season too, at least for the back half, until they ran into Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors. What makes this game different? For one, it’s the key personnel absences across both teams.
Rumors were swirling among NBA reporters Friday that Robert Williams III was going to make his season debut for Saturday's matchup against Golden State, but Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe has put those reports to rest. That, taken with Al Horford's expected absence due to health and safety protocols, leaves an already an already shaky Celtics frontcourt rotation perilously thin.
But the Celtics have been playing without the Time Lord all season, and though the best version of their team will feature him prominently come the playoffs, they’ve been just fine shifting into a more offense-first identity during the opening quarter of the season. Their defense has recently begun to catch up as well, having risen from down in the 20s to Top-6 on the season.
It’s the Warriors whose roster issues are more likely to determine Saturday’s outcome. Golden State had a lot of success defending the Celtics over the course of last season's NBA Finals, but so much of that hinged on the play of Andrew Wiggins, who is out with a groin injury.
Wiggins was unambiguously the second-best player on the Warriors through the duration of last year's series against Boston, proving himself time and time again as an isolation defender against Jayson Tatum, a capable switch guy, and a suddenly prolific rebounder. He hit big shot after big shot spotting up from three but also had enough juice to take a few dribbles and make something happen on late-clock possessions where Golden State was otherwise drawing dead. The Dubs are 16.3 points better with Wiggins on the court vs. off this season, a mark only bested by Draymond and Steph.
His absence is a big blow to the Warriors on both sides, and a boon to Tatum. The Warriors' ready replacements on the wing don’t have the body or the discipline to act as a suitable Wiggins replacement, and while Draymond Green can shift to guard him in spots, a lot of Green’s value comes from his ability to work the defense from off the ball.
The Warriors also have to do something that the Celtics don’t, which is play a number of one-way players in the rotation. At a minimum, nobody on the Celtics roster who matters consistently hurts their team by poor play on one side of the ball. The Warriors, meanwhile, are constantly making trade-offs, forced into defense or offense-first alignments, leaving weak links for the likes of Tatum and Jaylen Brown to abuse.
The Celtics are just the better team right now, and the need to avenge their Finals loss should give them an additional psychological edge. I expect them to win and cover on Saturday.
My best bet: Celtics -2.5 (-115 at betway)
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Celtics vs Warriors spread analysis
Now let’s dig into the numbers a bit more. Despite their aura of invincibility and historic on-court production, sportsbooks have been slow to adjust their expectations for this Boston team. To wit, the Celtics are coming off a game where their opponent, the Phoenix Suns (at the time the leading team in the Western Conference) were favored by two. They covered that game by a staggering 29 points.
That isn’t an anomaly for their season. A Celtics cover has been among the most profitable bets in the NBA this season, and it’s only becoming more so over time. Boston is 17-9-0 against the spread on the season and 13-3 in their last 16 games overall. On top of that, the Celts are beating the spread by an average of 8.9 points over their last seven games per Cleaning the Glass.
The Warriors have been dominant at home (11-2), but in the aggregate, only slightly better than the Celtics have been on the road (10-3). Boston’s offense sometimes got bogged down in the Finals series, but I don’t expect the Warriors to be able to give Boston the same difficulties in this game.
For one thing, Tatum has taken another leap as a scorer and playmaker. He’s the deserving NBA MVP odds favorite and is making a push for inclusion among the Boston Celtics’ hallowed pantheon of All-Time greats. Further, the Celtics have more options now if Tatum gets into difficulty, with Malcolm Brogdon and Derrick White both playing out of their minds and shooting the ball extremely well from outside. If Wiggins was healthy, I’d give the Warriors a fighting chance, but as is I think the Celtics are a strong bet to cover this line.
Celtics vs Warriors Over/Under analysis
The Total for Saturday’s contest, 232.5, is one of the highest I’ve seen this season. So high in fact that despite my reservations about Golden State’s ability to check Tatum one on one that I’m hesitant to lay at this number. That, and the trends when these two teams play, have strongly favored the Under, including the Under cashing in nine out of the last 10 times they have met in Golden State.
Another two trends of note are that the Under is 6-0 in the Celtics' last six road games against teams with a home winning percentage of greater than .600 while the Under is 5-1 in the Warriors' last six games vs. a team with a winning percentage above .600. Translation? When the chips are down against the very best opponents, these two teams both respond by significantly increasing their defensive intensity.
Further evidence of this from the Warriors' side? The Under is 14-3 in the Warriors' last 17 games vs. teams with a winning record. That intention should hold even if both Boston and Golden State are missing key defensive personnel. This is probably a stay-away bet for me, but the Celtics' renewed commitment to defense and the size of this Total has me leaning Under more than Over.
Celtics vs Warriors betting trend to know
Celtics are 13-3 ATS in their last 16 games overall. Find more NBA betting trends for Celtics vs. Warriors.
Celtics vs Warriors game info
|Chase Center, San Francisco, CA
|Saturday, December 10, 2022
|8:30 p.m. ET