By Mark Curtis
The All-Star Break is coming to an end and an exciting weekend it was. We saw the first competitive All-Star game in quite some time… actual defense being played. Wow.
Kyrie Irving dropped 13 points with 9 assists and grabbed 7 rebounds and poked the ball away for a steal. On the opposite end of the court, Horford put up 6 points with 2 assists and powered down 5 rebounds in 12 minutes. He also had one steal.
This begs the question: what’s in store for the C-Green Smash Machine in the second half of the season?
Great question. At this point, the Celtics sit in second-place in Eastern Conference, two games behind the Raptors at 40-19. It would take the worst slide in history and a great second half by the current playoff bottom-feeders to keep the Celtics out of the playoffs.
In fact, Team Rankings has the Celtics at a 100% probability and looking at the numbers, even if they only won 1 game and finished 41 and 41, they would still have roughly a 50% chance of making the 8th spot.
The Current statistical shakedown has the Toronto Raptors at 82% to get the number-one berth and the Celtics at 65% probability of a number-two berth with both teams controlling their own destinies for these two slots. The Cavs control their destiny at 48% probability on the number-three seed, and the Wizards, Pacers, and Bucks shoot it out for the 4-seed —all in control of their destinies but with the Sixers at 22%, the Wizards at 21%, and the Bucks at 14%.
What About Playoff Probability?
Other great indicators of (implied) probability are the Vegas and online markets. Bovada has the Celtics at +260 (2.6 to 1) to win the Eastern Conference and head into the NBA Finals, the Raptors at +375 (3.75 to 1) and the Cavs favorites at -160 (.625 to 1)
This is in direct opposition to Team Rankings projections. TR has the Raptors at a 24.2% chance of winning the East, the Celtics second at 3.2%, and the Cavs at just .7%.
Some might think that Las Vegas believes that the Cavaliers will step it up and be clutch once more in the postseason. However, the odds haven’t shifted since before the trade deadline, the disparities have more to do with the projection algorithms reflecting probabilities with roster changes — and the betting lines remaining as they were. In any case, we should check back with Bovada in a couple of weeks to see if the odds shift.
That said, two-and-a-half to one is great odds when it comes to something as difficult as becoming the Eastern Conference Champions. And Vegas generally beats the no-money-at-stake computer models — it’s probably correct regarding Toronto. The Raptors are playing very well, but historically, they choke to epic proportions once they make the postseason.
The Cavs are playing energetically with their new crew, but this is very much a new unit and we are likely to see a slide as the season wears on. I just don’t see them playing cohesively enough during the pressure-laden playoff games to out-do the Celtics.
My call: the Celtics finish 58 and 24 with a top-seeded playoff berth. Look for an exciting, deep run into the playoffs with a possible NBA Finals showing.