Celtics vs. Mavericks Odds, Pick, Prediction: Luka Doncic in Line for Big Night

Action Network contributor Jim Turvey previews Thursday's NBA game between the Dallas Mavericks and the Boston Celtics, including betting odds and a prediction.

Celtics vs. Mavericks Odds

Celtics Odds -2.5
Mavericks Odds +2.5
Over/Under 229.5
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The red-hot Dallas Mavericks (22-16) play host to the significantly less red-hot Boston Celtics (26-12) on Thursday night on TNT.

When these two teams met earlier this season, Jayson Tatum and the Celtics came out on top, and there was a lot of “would you rather have Tatum or Luka Doncic” chatter on the internet.

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Boston Celtics

The Celtics find themselves in an interesting spot. They have arguably the best health they’ve had all season (the only player to miss last game was Danilo Gallinari, who will be out for the whole season), but are also embroiled in their worst stretch of the season, having dropped two straight and seven of their past 12.

Their most recent outing saw the Thunder drop 150 (!!!) points, the most points Boston has allowed since 1979.

Ironically, during this tough stretch, it’s been the offense that has been mostly to blame. Those three-pointers that just couldn’t miss in the first two months have bounced a little less friendly in the past month.

Heading into that fateful game in San Francisco on Dec. 10, the Celtics were hitting 40% of their threes. Since then, they’ve hit 31.1% — the third-worst mark in the NBA in that timeframe. Now, Boston was actually coming back to Earth a bit even before that Warriors game, but that game makes for a convenient line of demarcation.

The true Celtics are obviously somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. However, there are some stats we should be looking at that are a bit less volatile.

The Celtics are giving up, by far, the most points per game in isolation. On the surface, that could be read as a good thing. Forcing the opposition into isolation plays is generally better than allowing looks off of good ball movement. However, their Thursday opponent thrives in isolation.

Dallas Mavericks

You don’t need me to tell you just how crazy Luka Doncic has been this season, but I will target my analysis to one area of his game.

In probably the least surprising news you’ve heard all day, Doncic is comfortably leading the league in isolation points per game this season, averaging 9.0 such points per game, per Only James Harden is even within range (8.1) with Embiid at 6.9 and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander at 6.2. No one else is over 6.0. In fact, Doncic’s nine points are more than all but four teams average per game.

However, Doncic relies on it, and he’s efficient with it, too,  averaging 1.16 points per isolation play, well above league average.

As a result, the Mavericks easily have the most points per game in isolation, and are third-best in the Association in points per play on isolation. Counter that with the Celtics who, as noted above, allow the most isolation points per game, and are also seventh-worst in terms of isolation points per play, and it’s a great fit for the Mavericks.

However, isolation plays are such a small edge (even the league-leading Mavericks only average 14.3 such points per game) that I prefer to target the more specific result of this matchup edge: Doncic’s points.

It’s a little terrifying to bet an over 32.5 points prop, but in the case of Doncic, it can still have value. Doncic has cleared 32.5 in 22 of his 35 games (an insane stat, by the way), and in his previous matchup with the Celtics, he went for 42. We know Doncic loves big games, and he’s never shy in those nationally televised games, either.

Given all those factors, I would even play over 33.5 to -120.

Celtics-Mavericks Pick

I laid out the Doncic pick above, but I am going to go with another lean on the side here.

It smells a little fishy that the Celtics are ice cold, the Mavericks are red hot and yet Boston is still favored in Dallas. However, I’m not going to let that scare me off this time.

Action Pro shows there has already been a bit of sharp action on the Mavericks, and getting that extra half point at BetMGM is enough to push me over the edge. The Doncic bet is the full play, but I’m also going with Dallas +2.5 as a lean.

Pick: Luka Doncic points prop over 33.5 (-120) and Dallas +2.5