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Cavaliers vs. Celtics: The best player prop bets for Dec. 22

Profile Picture: Rory Breasail

Rory Breasail

December 22nd, 2021

The 19-12 Cleveland Cavaliers have been one of the Cinderella stories of the NBA season, but they’ll be hard pressed to keep the fairy tale going as they visit the Boston Celtics tonight. While the Cavaliers have been undeniably better, they’re going to be without Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley, the twin keys to their newfound defensive identity, who are both in health and safety protocols.

Boston, which is mostly healthy, will be looking to capitalize on a team with serious COVID-19 absences like so many did against the Celtics last year. While they’re sitting merely at 15-16 on the season, the Celtics have shown signs of finding the top-level defensive identity that many predicted would lead them to home-court advantage in the playoff standings by year's end.

Cavaliers vs. Celtics tips off at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBA League Pass, and we have the three best player prop bets below.

Thu, December 23 2021, 12:30 AM

BOS Celtics

Moneyline

-220

Spread

-5.5

Total

O 215

CLE Cavaliers

Moneyline

+180

Spread

+5.5

Total

U 215

JAYLEN BROWN OVER/UNDER 2.5 ASSISTS

The Celtics have something all teams covet: a pair of big, All-Star wing initiators. Why then, does it seem like offensively things there just never quite add up to the sum of their parts? Well, if you ask Marcus Smart, it’s because Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown don’t pass the ball enough.

At first blush in Brown’s case, the numbers don’t look as bad as the reputation, as he has a 14.2% assist percentage this year. But given his usage rate of 27.8%, Brown's assist to usage rate is just 0.51, which is in the 37th percentile among wings. That’s black hole-level stuff, and Tatum’s numbers are similar. Brown’s the worst of the two, though, and averaging just 2.6 assists despite playing more than 32 minutes per game is a serious flaw. It’s built into the way he plays, and unfortunately it's only getting worse.

A lot of easy assists are generated in the NBA by drawing two to the ball, typically by driving, and then making a play once you break the paint. Brown is more than capable of doing that, but he just doesn’t on a consistent basis. His drives per game (9.6) are well below Tatum’s (12.5), and just 25% of his offense comes at the rim.

Brown is an outstanding player, but he still thinks score-first in too many situations. I don’t see that changing against a compromised Cleveland tonight.

PICK: UNDER 2.5 ASSISTS (+105)


DENNIS SCHRÖDER OVER/UNDER 15.5 POINTS

Schröder was signed off the bargain bin by the Celtics after infamously turning down an $84 million deal to return to the Los Angeles Lakers. At less than $6 million, Boston has gotten incredible value from the slashing guard. While he’s done little to alleviate the Celtics' passing woes, he brings a critical element to the Boston offense with his consistent driving game.

Despite coming off the bench for much of the year, he is by far the leader on the Celtics in drives per game at 14.3, a number comparable to James Harden on a per minute basis. And his drives frequently result in points at the rim, where 29% of all his offense is generated.

Typically, Cleveland would be the last team in the NBA that Schröder would have success against, as their interior defense has been best in class all year long. But without Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen to clog up the paint, suddenly Schröder’s skillset is deadly in this matchup. There’s every reason to think Schröder, who averages 16.8 points per game, will do serious damage inside under these optimal conditions.

PICK: OVER 15.5 POINTS (-115)


DARIUS GARLAND OVER/UNDER 2.5 3-POINT FIELD GOALS MADE

Darius Garland has been one of the season's breakout players, and an unheralded reason for the Cavaliers' shocking level of success. While Mobley and Allen have deservedly earned much praise for their outsized defensive impact, Garland has had a similar effect on the offensive end of the court. The Cavaliers are +9.4 points per possession better on offense when Garland is on the floor, and Garland is posting career highs all across the board as he assumes total command of Cleveland’s offense.

Garland’s 56.5% eFG% is in the 95th percentile among point guards, buoyed almost entirely by his incredible combination of 3-point shooting volume and efficiency. The truly impressive part, is that similar to Steph Curry, only about half of his 3s (52%) have come off of assists, meaning that he is generating these looks off the dribble, and still knocking them down at a 39.2% rate overall.

That level of self-creation is what makes me optimistic about Garland hitting the Over here. With other offensive engines on the team sidelined, Garland figures to have the ball in his hands even more than usual, and he’s proven that he can score even with little help from his supporting cast.

PICK: OVER 2.5 3-POINT FIELD GOALS (+150)

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