Stephen Nover Free Friday NBA Play

On February 24, 2017, in Free Picks, NBA, by Stephen

Raptors minus 3 hosting Celtics

If the Raptors are serious about winning the Atlantic Division – and they indeed are trading for Serge Ibaka and PJ Tucker – they need to win this home game. Toronto trails Boston by four games in the division. It’s a crucial matchup for the Raptors.

All-Star break came at a good time for the Raptors, who were reeling with 11 losses in their last 16 games. The team was tired with stars DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowery overworked and defense lacking. Ibaka, Tucker and the return of power forward Patrick Patterson from a knee injury should shore up the defense. Ibaka will make his Toronto debut, but has been on the team for the last 10 days. Tucker is questionable after being acquired on Thursday.

Boston is 11-2 in its last 13 games. The Celtics stood pat at the trade deadline even though there were rumors Paul George and Jimmy Butler were available. It would have been a huge morale boost for Boston to have acquired one of those stars. But the Celtics, despite an abundance of draft choices, stood pat.

Celtics management must think their team is better than the Cavaliers. The Celtics aren’t. I don’t think the Celtics are even better than the Raptors. Toronto has won six of the past seven meetings during the past two seasons, including the last one played in Toronto, 114-106 on Jan. 10 with DeRozan scoring 41 points. The Raptors were 5 1/2-point favorites in that one. This line is less.

DeRozan and Lowery are going to get their points against defensively-challenged Isaiah Thomas. Now the Raptors have a big rebounding edge on Boston with Ibaka. They should play with a tremendous sense of urgency. The Raptors are 14-6-1 ATS the past 21 times hosting foes that have a winning road record.

The Celtics need Avery Bradley to help slow down DeRozan and Lowery. Bradley has missed 20 of the last 21 games due to an Achilles injury. Bradley is not expected to play today.

Certainly it’s debatable if the Raptors are better than the Celtics. But what should be for sure is the Raptors need this game more, should be highly motivated and have improved at the trade deadline while Boston didn’t. I want the Raptors going for me here.


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