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NBA preview: 8th December

IT’S a small three-game slate today in the NBA, but some terrific matchups across the board.

Here’s a look at the best bit of value for punters today.

Boston Celtics @ LA Lakers

THE Boston Celtics head to the soon-to-be Centre to take on the LA Lakers amid a five-game road trip.

Boston will look to keep their offence rolling after starting off their west coast trip scoring at a high-level in their matches against Utah and Portland.

Surprisingly, it’s their defensive output of late that has been their shortcomings on the court but we’ve seen the defensive identity of this team show itself under Ime Udoka and it will come to the fore again sooner rather than later for them.

These two fierce rivals squared off less than a month ago at the TD Garden, with Boston coming out on top.  Jayson Tatum led his side with 37 points but it was the scoring contributions by the team as a whole that was most impressive.

Boston were able to dominate their opponents by scoring in half-court sets and making the most of their second chance points as they completely dominated the boards in that one – something that prompted Lakers coach Frank Vogel to change his starting lineup in the aftermath of that loss.

The Celtics aren’t known for their rebounding ability but have turned a corner in that regard this season and have been pressuring opponents by reducing opponent offensive rebounds and cleaning up misses to create extra scoring opportunities.

A lot of the little things Boston is doing right is attributable to returning veteran Al Horford who has been terrific this season once again. His playmaking abilities and defensive prowess have all been welcome additions to key areas of weakness from last season.

LA have played only one game in the last six days which is a huge plus for this aging squad.  Much needed rest could prove to be beneficial as they attempt to get their season back on track.

They have had to endure a series of injuries and missed time that has hampered their preparation and impacted their depth as a squad.  This being said, there were a number of alarm bells before the season began relating to the holes in this squad, in particular their offensive limitations.

The Lakers have failed to perform against competitive opponents, with only one of their 12 wins coming against a playoff calibre teams.

Their offence has been around league average all season, which has really put an emphasis on just how bad they have been defensively.  They rate 21st in the league in defensive efficiency but when you pair them against top-10 rated offences they actually rate 30th.

Now, I’m not saying that the currently flurry of Boston offence isn’t going to experience some regression to the mean, but they can definitely put up points on this LA team.

The Lakers also rank dead-last in the league in spread differential meaning that Vegas has overrated them in relation to the spread.  I think this could be the case again in today’s matchup.

If Boston get rolling, this Lakers team doesn’t have the defensive capacity to hold them nor the offensive weapons to stay in touch.

Even without Jaylen Brown I have the Celtics priced as small favourites in this one.  Back the Celtics to continue their impressive road trip and add to the Lakers woes.

Our best bet: Boston Celtics +4.0 $1.92 at PlayUp


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