New Orleans Pelicans vs Boston Celtics

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The New Orleans Pelicans (20-25) have turned things over to Zion Williamson now full-time, and he is making things happen for NOLA. In his past two games, Williamson has hit 27-of-35 shots, averaging 38.5 points in that stretch. In New Orleans’s latest win against Dallas, Williamson scored 10 points and influenced the other eight points in a late 18-8 run to seal a 112-103 win over the Mavericks. Nickiel Alexander-Walker added 20 points in the win, which was the Pelicans’ third in their last four.

The Pelicans now head to Boston, where they will take on a Celtics (23-23) team that has won two in a row. The Celtics, who were active at the trade deadline, are currently seventh in the Eastern Conference. The return home after knocking off Oklahoma City 111-94 on the road. The Celtics trailed by four heading into the final quarter, but new Celtic Luke Kornet hit back-to-back threes to key a 17-2 run to put the Thunder away. Jayson Tatum scored 27 points, while Jaylen Brown added 25 points.

This will be the second meeting between the two teams this season. New Orleans won the first game 120-115 in overtime. Brandon Ingram (33 points) and Zion Williamson (28 points) out-dueled Jayson Tatum (32 points, 9 rebounds) and Jaylon Brown (25 points) to key a 24 point, second half comeback.

The Celtics will be without former Magic star Evan Fournier and center Tristan Thompson, both of whom are in health and safety protocol. New Orleans will be without Lonzo Ball (hip) and Jaxson Hayes (wrist).

Williamson Thriving In New Role

New Orleans coach Stan Gundy has given Zion Williamson free reign as a point forward, and the former Duke standout hasn’t disappointed. He has been nearly unstoppable over the past two games, using his size and ball skills to split double teams and find open teammates.

Zion Williamson has now upped his average to 26.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, and 7.1 apg. Brandon Ingram has averaged 23.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg, and 4.6 apg, giving the Pelicans another big scorer to go along with Williamson. The rest of the rotation is filled with crafty veterans like JJ Reddick and Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe checks in with an 11.4 ppg average. He is hitting 38.5% of his three point attempts.

As a team offensively, the Pelicans rank 8th in effective field goal percentage (55.0%). New Orleans is tops in the league in offensive rebounding percentage at 27.2%, and is fifth in free throws per field goal attempts (.209). While the offense has been nice, New Orleans is still a poor defensive team, which has stunted their record this season.

As a team, New Orleans is ranked 30th in opponent’s effective field goal percentage (55.9%), 22nd in opponent’s turnovers percentage (11.7%), fourth in defensive rebounding percentage (79.8%), and 11th in opponent’s free throws per field goal attempt (.186).

Celtics Trying to Stay Afloat Until Full Squad Returns

The Boston Celtics have dealt with players in health and safety protocols all season, and it has hurt their continuity. Tonight, the Celtics will be without recently traded Evan Fournier, and center Tristan Thompson because of those protocols. The good news is the Celtics still have Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum leading the way.

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are one of the better duos in the NBA. Tatum has averaged 25.1 ppg, 6.8 rog, and 4.4 apg while hitting 37.9% from downtown this season to lead the team. Brown has averaged 24.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg, and 3.7 apg while shooting 39.2% from beyond the arc. Kemba Walker has averaged 18.0 ppg and 4.6 apg since returning from injury.

As a team, the Celtics have an effective field goal percentage of 54.3%,12th in the league. Boston is 16th in the league in turnover percentage (12.4%), fourth in offensive rebounding percentage (25.0%) and 20th in free throws per field goal attempts (.182). Defensively, the Celtics are 18th in the NBA in opponents effective field goal percentage (54.0%), 14th in opponent turnover percentage (12.9%), 17th in defensive rebound percentage (77.2%), and 27th in opponent free throws per field goal attempts (.214).

The Bottom Line
What to bet on this game.

Full-Game Side Bet
Rating:
 

The spread has moved from -4.5 to -4.0 in favor of Boston. Zion Williamson’s recent play should give Pelicans fans some hope, but he now gets a Celtics team without Tristan Thompson. Mo Wagner and Luke Kornet will be charged with stopping Williamson, and both of those are huge mismatches. The only question is will New Orleans get enough stops. That might not happen, but I think the Pelicans keep it close. I’m picking New Orleans to cover.

Prediction:
New Orleans +4

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Full-Game Total Pick
Rating:
 

The Pelicans have been so bad defensively this season that it is hard to pick the UNDER in any game they play. Boston is a good scoring team, and New Orleans has been stroking it recently. Look for a high scoring game, which is why I’m taking the OVER here.

Prediction:
OVER 230.5