Generally speaking, handicappers will recommend fading NBA teams in the second game of a back-to-back, especially on the road, for obvious rest and travel reasons. The Boston Celtics are in that situation tonight in Miami but are a stellar 7-0 straight up and 6-1 against the spread in the second half of a back-to-back this season. Boston is an underdog for just the third time in the 2022-23 campaign, priced at +3 at Caesars Sportsbook because of a few injury/rest concerns. Click here for model picks.
Boston played without the team's two best defenders on Monday in Orlando -- starting guard Marcus Smart, the 2021-22 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, and center Robert Williams. Guard Malcolm Brogdon, the club's top reserve and another terrific defensive player, also was out. The Celtics were shellacked 113-98 to end their nine-game winning streak. Improbably, it was Boston's third straight loss to a bad Magic team this season.
As of this writing, it's not clear if any of that trio will play tonight. It seems likely Williams at a minimum will suit up because he doesn't play both ends of back-to-backs, which is presumably why he sat Monday – although he did leave Saturday's game in Toronto with a minor injury. Smart also left Saturday with a sprained ankle. Brogdon is dealing with an unknown personal issue. Al Horford probably will not play tonight, as he too does not play in both ends of back-to-backs.
MVP candidate Jayson Tatum got Saturday off but was back Monday and finished with 26 points, seven assists and six rebounds. After making a three-pointer in the third quarter for a 68-66 lead, Tatum winced in pain while holding his right side. He purposely gave a foul to stop the clock and left for the locker room. The Magic went on a 20-5 run to take control. Tatum returned, later saying the issue was just a cramp and that he's fine, but that's obviously a situation worth monitoring.
Boston still has the best road record in the NBA at 17-8 and is 20-5 overall against teams at .500 or better. The Celtics were 1.5-point underdogs on Dec. 5 in Toronto and +2 on Dec. 7 Phoenix and won both games outright.
Miami (26-22) is finally healthy and had won eight of its last 12. The Heat look for a split of the season series. They trail 2-1 but won the most recent matchup 120-116 in overtime in Boston on Dec. 2. The Celtics will be the first Eastern Conference team the Heat will finish their series against this season. The clubs could easily meet in the playoffs again as they did in the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals, with Boston winning in seven games.
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