You can learn a lot about a basketball team on their first long road trip.
As the Boston Celtics embark on a five-game, eight-day West Coast swing, many are curious to see how the C’s handle the hurdles that come with playing a long way from home.
Bookmakers expect the Celtics to be an underdog in three of their next five games. Their near-win against the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night impressed the sportsbooks, so Boston actually opened as a three-point favorite at Golden State ahead of Tuesday night’s tilt.
“That was a swing game for us,” Westgate SuperBook vice president of risk management Jeff Sherman told NESN. “A solid performance against the Lakers on national television moved the meter a bit.”
Sports betting is a rather fluid medium, you see. The betting markets are always adjusting and reacting to recent results. So if the Lakers crushed Gang Green by 20-plus, the Warriors could have realistically opened as a small home favorite.
After playing at Golden State, the C’s will play the Kings in Sacramento, Clippers in Los Angeles, Suns in Phoenix and Jazz in Salt Lake City. That’s an extremely tough stretch against the Nos. 1, 2 and 6 seeds in the Western Conference.
Boston will also be without Marcus Smart, one of its best defenders, for at least two weeks. That could really sting against those three aforementioned offenses.
“They’ll definitely be dogs against the Clippers, Suns and Jazz,” Sherman said.
Being an underdog doesn’t mean the C’s can’t compete or even win any of those games. Bookmakers are taking a stance behind their numbers and essentially saying it’s a “prove it” trip for a young basketball team on the the road. Think of it that way.
Rising stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have been better than advertised this year as they continue to cement themselves as faces of the franchise. They can’t do it alone, though. Boston’s secondary scoring will be crucial against the good teams and a guy like NBA All-Star Kemba Walker has to play a whole lot better than he has since returning from a knee injury.
“He’s not living up to the cost of the contract so far,” Sherman said of Walker. “With Tatum and Brown taking on larger roles, they need more rim protection and size to help guard the other team’s bigs. Walker doesn’t really fill that role.”
Walker can still be valuable if he’s making shots, but that has certainly been an area of concern. Kemba is shooting only 37 percent from the floor and an underwhelming 29 percent from three. Those numbers need to improve if the C’s plan on making a run.
Maybe the C’s should make a push for JJ Redick after all?
“The Celtics are our fourth-highest rated team in the East right now,” Sherman said. “We’ve got Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Boston in that order at this point in time.”
The Celtics will face the Warriors on Tuesday with tip set for 10 p.m. ET.