They don’t give away trophies for it, but the Boston Celtics have proven to be the league’s most resilient team through the NBA’s opening month.
After losing Kyrie Irving in the offseason and watching projected starting center Enes Kanter open the season hobbled, the Celtics plugged Daniel Theis in the middle and gave the newly acquired Kemba Walker the keys to drive the bus. He responded by helping Gordon Hayward rediscover his pre-injury All-Star form over the first few weeks before breaking his hand.
Brad Stevens turned to Marcus Smart to fill the hole in the starting lineup and the winning continued. The Celtics rattled off 10 straight victories before narrowly losing at Sacramento over the weekend. They bounced back to drop Phoenix on Monday but may have lost Smart for at least a few days due to an ankle sprain.
Boston is running out of quality reinforcements, but it has been able to offer guys that wouldn’t have ordinarily played opportunities and has seen Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown respond to increased opportunities after both struggled alongside Irving as NBA sophomores, leading to last season’s regression.
With Hayward due back next month, Kanter back and ramping up his conditioning and Smart’s ankle sprain not expected to be much of a hindrance, Boston has a chance to hang on to the East’s best record when they get back home from a challenging stretch of eight road games in 10 outings that ends with this week’s matchups at the Clippers and Nuggets.
The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has Boston as a 5-1 shot to win the Eastern Conference and an especially juicy 20-1 to win the NBA title that appears worth jumping on for value’s sake since that number won’t stick if the team’s success continues. The Celtics have braved a challenging early storm wonderfully and no longer look like they have too many cooks in the kitchen.
Here are this week’s selections:
Rockets at Clippers (Friday): This game should feature L.A. natives James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on the same floor unless unnecessary load maintenance makes an appearance, but I believe we’ll see everyone in the mix. Expect a fast pace and lots of points at Staples Center. OVER
Spurs at Knicks (Saturday): The slumping Spurs are in New York looking to turn things around after an awful start and can’t afford to look past anyone at this point. Gregg Popovich’s teams are unique in that they typically galvanize on the road, so I expect a blowout win at Madison Square Garden to get things headed in the right direction.
San Antonio will likely be favored by a few points despite finishing up a road back-to-back after playing in Philly the previous night but it has enough depth to topple the young Knicks. SPURS
Thunder at Warriors (Monday): Our final play likes the Thunder to handle business as a road favorite in Monday night’s only late start. D’Angelo Russell remains sidelined for depleted Golden State while Chris Paul is finding his form with OKC, helping foster the development of special young guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Lay the points and expect the number to be hovering around six. THUNDER
Last week: 1-2