Pelicans vs. Celtics Odds, Pick, Prediction: Back New Orleans' Depth and Versatility (January 11)

Joe Dellera breaks down Wednesday's NBA matchup between the New Orleans Pelicans and Boston Celtics and shares his best bet.

Pelicans vs. Celtics Odds

Pelicans Odds +9.5
Celtics Odds -9.5
Over/Under 231
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
TV NBA League Pass
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The New Orleans Pelicans head to Boston to take on the Celtics in a showdown between two of the league’s best teams. Although the Pelicans are maligned with injuries, their depth has proven to be resilient.

Here’s a look at the odds as well as my pick and prediction for the New Orleans Pelicans vs. Boston Celtics.

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Marshall and the Pelicans Stepping Up

The Pelicans will be without Zion Williamson (hamstring) and Brandon Ingram (toe) for tonight’s contest, and Herb Jones (back) is listed as doubtful. The primary beneficiaries in terms of Usage for the Pelicans have been CJ McCollum, Jonas Valanciunas and Naji Marshall.

I wrote about this at greater length in my Player Props Forecast that was released on Monday, but Marshall’s emergence is notable for this Pelicans team. He has continued to destroy his PRA line, which consistently has been set at 23.5-24.5. If that opens anywhere in that vicinity tonight, it’s worth a play, even in a tougher matchup against the Celtics.

The Pelicans have survived without Ingram and Williamson, and a key reason for that has been the contributions of players like Marshall. In the team’s 1538 possessions without either of Ingram or Williamson, they have still been strong defensively. They are allowing just 111.7 points per 100 possessions for a Net Rating of +1.1, per Cleaning the Glass.

They have managed a Net Rating over their last four games without Williamson and Ingram of +3.5, which is the 12th-best in the league over this stretch. One concern for this lineup is their bench minutes rely on rookies, and the team allows 3-pointers at a very high rate while relying on midrange shots, thus exposing themselves to a math problem.

Celtics Defense May Be Shorthanded

The Boston Celtics are also listing a few players on the injury report. Namely, Marcus Smart (knee) and Robert Williams (injury rehabilitation) are both listed as questionable.

Considering the Celtics play tomorrow night against the Brooklyn Nets in a game with much more significant consequences for both the division and the Eastern Conference as a whole, I would not be surprised if both Smart and Williams sit tonight to be prepared for tomorrow night. After looking at the injury report and the team’s schedule, I’d consider that Williams is the more likely of the two to sit tonight and play tomorrow.

The Celtics have been excellent this season and have the league’s best record (29-12) along with the league’s best Adjusted Net Rating (+5.8) and best Adjusted Offensive Rating (117.6). They have continuously dominated on the offensive side of the ball.

However, over the last two weeks, Boston has seen its offensive output drop by a touch and defensive numbers plummet to allow 116.3 points per 100 possessions. I don’t think that is a reliable indicator of this team’s performance though – they allowed 150 points to the Thunder in a clear outlier performance and followed that up with three straight wins against the Mavericks, Spurs, and Celtics. The defense has been better than that defensive rating indicates.

Especially if Robert Williams sits, I think this is a particularly intriguing matchup for Grant Williams. He takes 57% of his shots from 3-point range while making 43% of them. He’s a tougher cover for the Pelicans due to his size and ability to stretch the floor if he gets minutes at the five. Back in November, when the Celtics were also without Smart and Robert Williams, Grant Williams played 35 minutes against the Pelicans and scored 12 points.

Pelicans-Celtics Pick

The Celtics should take care of business tonight against a Pelicans team that is without its two best players; however, that does not necessarily mean they will cover a double-digit spread.

Looking at the injury reports, I have concerns due to the scheduling that the Celtics will elect to save both Smart and Robert Williams for tomorrow night’s game and try to win this one without two of their best defensive players. This should help a Pelicans team that is without some of their primary offensive options.

As a result, I lean toward the over of 230.5, but I also will back the Pelicans to keep this within single digits. Their versatility on both offense and defense are well suited for this matchup against the Celtics.