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NBA East Top 5 Betting Report: Celtics Running Away

While the Boston Celtics are threatening to turn the East race into a rout, there’s still plenty left to be determined below them. Here’s a look at where the top teams in the conference stand as they approach the stretch run.


NBA East Top 5 Betting Report: Celtics Running Away
NBA East Top 5 Betting Report: Celtics Running Away

1. Boston Celtics (+110 to Win Eastern Conference)

It’s purely academic at this point, barring anything unforeseen. The Celtics will be the top seed in the East and a huge favorite at the sportsbook to win it all.

Boston has won eight in a row – its longest streak of the season – and enters Monday’s action with a 7½-game lead in the East over Cleveland. The Celts have been challenged in a few of those eight straight wins, but not seriously. Their mission from here on out is two-fold – don’t get complacent and find ways to improve. Those might be related.

Here’s Jaylen Brown with a better summation of what his team is focusing on over the final 25 games: “We’re the most talented team. We’ve got to be the smarter team, as well. And when we do that, we’re going to be tough to beat.”

Most observers would agree that if the Celtics were a bit stronger mentally last spring, they would’ve handled the Miami Heat and, perhaps, the Denver Nuggets. It appears that they learned plenty from their shortcomings in the playoffs in recent years.

An upcoming glut of road games is the only real obstacle on the schedule. Beginning March 5, Boston plays 12 of 15 on the road. Shouldn’t be too much of an issue. They’ve won eight in a row away from home.


2. Cleveland Cavaliers (+850)

It must be a bit deflating to have a stretch in which you win 17 of 18 games and then have a week of mediocrity and you’re the same distance from first place as you were when it all started.

That’s what happened with the Cavs, who put a little bit of pressure on the Celtics with that hot stretch before a 2-3 span – coupled with Boston’s win streak – opened the gap back up. They were 7½ games out when they got hot and they’re 7½ games out going into Monday’s play.

There is one game remaining against the Celtics and it’s at home, so that’s something to cling to. That aside, Cleveland’s goal now is to hold off Milwaukee for the No. 2 seed, which could mean home-court advantage in a conference semifinals matchup.


3. Milwaukee Bucks (+300)

If you ranked all 30 NBA teams in a “We really needed the All-Star break” basis, the Bucks might’ve been first. Not that they were particularly banged up or anything. It just felt like everything has been sped up with this team all season – from the quick orientation of a first-year coach to his abrupt firing to the immediate flirtation with Doc Rivers and then a trial-by-fire period in which the new coach was trying to figure out what works with an underachieving bunch.

The break might’ve done its thing. Milwaukee, which punctuated a 3-7 stretch with an ugly loss at Memphis before the intermission, has opened up the stretch run with consecutive wins at Minnesota and Philadelphia.

This team has teased Las Vegas odds makers all season and it’s likely they’ll be targeted by those betting online again after the impressive back-to-back wins. Tread lightly, but look for signs that the Rivers-Giannis-Dame combo is putting things together, especially on the defensive end.


4. New York Knicks (+700)

Another Bucks slump and this crew could jump back into our third spot. We like the Knicks just as much as Milwaukee, so long as they’re healthy. Right now they’re not, and it’s taking a toll.

New York is now 2-6 since it reeled off nine straight wins, tumbling toward that play-in territory in the East. A 14-point home loss to the Celtics on Saturday gave them an 0-4 mark against the East leaders, which is a pretty sure sign you’ve got some work to do.

Task number one is getting OG Anunoby back. He is on schedule to return soon from elbow surgery. Then there’s the Julius Randle situation, which remains a bit murkier, although reports suggest he will try to play through his shoulder issue and not seek surgery.

Meanwhile, everything is falling on Jalen Brunson and it’s just not sustainable. It’s all about health with this crew.


5. Miami Heat (+1400)

These guys are like zombies. You think you stifled them with Pa’s old shotgun, but 25 more are coming around the other side of the barn.

On Monday night in Sacramento the Heat will utilize a lineup. Of some kind. With three players suspended and at least three others injured, who knows what Erik Spoelstra will do? But as we’ve noted in several NBA betting suggestions, that’s often when they’re at their best.

In the long run, they’ll find a degree of health and will only build upon what’s been a solid – albeit disjointed from a personnel standpoint – stretch of seven wins in their last nine games. If and when that happens, they’ll cement a top-sox spot, avoid a play-in situation and once again prove to be a very tough out in the playoffs.



Questions Of The Day

What’s the best NBA matchup on Monday night?

The Heat are playing well but enter Sacramento with three guys suspended and others uncertain due to injuries. The Kings are coming off a big win at the Clippers but are on the second half of a back-to-back. It all makes for an intriguing night.

Which team outside the Top 5 is making waves?

The Pacers have been lurking all season and have won six of eight. If the playoffs started today they’d avoid a play-in situation.

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