NBA – Week 23 In Review

The NBA’s regular season is coming to a close and teams are ramping up their intensity. The Boston Celtics, in particular, are flying towards the playoffs as they look to chase down the Philadelphia 76ers for the #1 seed in the East.

Kyrie’s Comeback

The strange Kyrie Irving situation has come to an end with the Brooklyn Nets point guard now allowed to play in home games. Previously unable to play at home given the state’s stance on vaccinations, it appeared as though Irving would need to navigate the playoffs and possibly the NBA Finals as an on-the-road-only teammate. However, it is no longer an issue.

Brooklyn’s price to win the NBA championship has shortened following the news. After ending last week on the second line of betting at $6.50, the Nets are now into $6. The Phoenix Suns having just clinched the best record in the league this season may have something to do with the lack of swing despite the fact the Nets will now have their second-best player on the court every night.

A Strange Week For The Sixers

The Philadelphia 76ers are a rollercoaster at the moment and James Harden’s inclusion has done nothing but add to the ups and downs of this season.

The week started with the 76ers being booed by their own fans in a 98-88 loss to the Toronto Raptors. A stretch than can only be described as NBA comedy for the fans of every other franchise in the league set those in attendance off as a lazy Harden turned the ball over three times to start the 4th quarter. Three consecutive wins saved the week including a big 122-92 win over the LA Clippers. Clippers coach Ty Lue fired a few shots after the game:

Still, despite Lue’s possibly correct judgement of the pair, the 76ers are still second in the Eastern Conference and on the 5th line of betting to win the NBA championship at $11.

Morant Votes For Booker

Ja Morant is making a habit out of starting conversations around the NBA. Last week he responded to the latest Defensive Player of the Year rankings when Jaren Jackson Jr. failed to rate a mention in the top three. This week he is querying the lack of Devin Booker hype in the MVP standings.

For context, the original rankings had it like this:

1) Joel Embiid
2) Nikola Jokic
3) Giannis Antetokounmpo
4) Jayson Tatum
5) Luka Doncic

No Booker…

Embiid remains as the $1.57 favourite with Nikola Jokic close behind at $2.70. It takes a big shift out to Giannis Antetokounmpo at $7 with Jayson Tatum coming in as a massive roughy at $276. Luka Doncic is on the fifth line of betting at $41 ahead of Booker at $51.

Booker has been excellent this season. His Suns will finish with the best record in the NBA. And Morant is right, the best player on the best team is often blindly handed the award. However, Embiid and Jokic have been dominating all year and one of them will end up lifting the Maurice Podoloff Trophy.

Taking The Celtics Seriously?

The Boston Celtics started the season with a 23-24 record. Talking heads began putting together trade scenarios and argued over who they should keep: Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown. Now having won 23 of their last 27 games, the Celtics are 46-28 and just 0.5 games back of the #1-seed Philadelphia 76ers.

They’ve done it with defence. Since January 23 when the stretch of 23 wins in 27 games started, the Celtics have the best record in the NBA, give up the fewest points per game (100ppg) and their opponents have shot just 41.2% from the field – the lowest mark in the league. The Celtics have turned their focus to the defensive side of the ball to save what looked like a forgettable season at one stage. As is often the case, with good defence comes good offence. Boston have ranked inside the Top 10 in both points per game and field goal percentage throughout the defensively-focused span.

Is it time to start taking them seriously? After all, defence wins championships…

The Celtics are on the fourth line of betting to win the Eastern Conference at $4.60 and $11 to lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy.