Talent-wise, the Hornets roster stacks up fairly well across the league, but as we’ve learned with the NBA, that does not always lead to wins. By losing at home on Saturday, the Hornets have lost four straight games and now need to host an 11-2 Boston Celtics team. With Charlotte’s inability to get off to a strong start in games, I’ll break down why the Celtics are the play to make in the first half despite them playing last night.
It was closer than expected, but by beating the Memphis Grizzlies last night 102-100, the Celtics are now amid a six-game winning streak. The last time the Celtics allowed an opponent to score more than 107 points came on November 6th, so even on nights when it feels like they have a lid on the basket for their offense, Boston can rely on their defense to win them games.
After last night’s win, Boston sits atop the league in defensive efficiency rating at 106.5, as opponents are shooting 43.5% from the field and 34.8% from three against them. Two of the biggest areas they’ve been successful in on defense up to this point are interior and transition defense. Opponents have averaged 42.3 points in the paint and 11.9 fastbreak points per game against them, which makes them a top-five team in each category.
Boston will be missing some key players tonight on both ends of the floor, with Al Horford and Derrick White unable to suit up against the Hornets. With that, Boston will need some role players to step up against a Hornets team that lost 122-108 on Saturday night to the Knicks.
By allowing 122 points, Charlotte has allowed 122 or more points in three of their last four games, which only worsened their league-worst defensive efficiency rating to 121.4. While opposing teams have struggled to shoot against the Celtics, the opposite can be said for the Hornets, as they rank 28th in opponent field goal percentage and three-point percentage.
It takes quite the offense to counteract that level of defensive issues, and the Hornets have not shown they have the offense to do so. During their four-game losing streak, Charlotte has a 108.3 offensive rating with a 55.4% true shooting percentage.
As they head into the second game of their back-to-back, the Boston Celtics are favored by (-8.5), but for my play, I’ll be taking their first-half spread of (-4.5). Even with Horford and White not playing, the Celtics still match up well against a Hornets team that is 4-8 ATS in the first half.
Over their last five games, Charlotte ranks 24th in 1H NET rating at (-15.4), while the Celtics rank 9th with a rating of (11.8). Boston ranks inside the top ten for points allowed in both the first and second quarters, so with Charlotte shooting 47% from the field and 31% from three in the first half, it looks like their offensive struggles will continue into tonight.
Meanwhile, Boston is 7th in 1H field goal percentage over the past five games, so Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown should have a field day against a Hornets defense with a 123.1 1H defensive rating in that span. The second night of a back-to-back can lead to heavy legs, but with the Hornets' lack of defense, I still think Boston can do enough in the first half to build a five-point lead by halftime.
Boston Celtics 1H (-4.5)