Cavaliers vs. Celtics NBA Best Bets for December 22

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Evan Mobley #4 of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Rick Osentoski/Getty Images/AFP

The Cleveland Cavaliers have been the story of the season with their rapid ascension to the top of the standings. The Boston Celtics represent the old guards of perennial playoff contenders. In a battle of old versus new, which team is the right NBA pick?

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Boston Celtics

Wednesday, December 22, 2021- 7:30 PM EST at TD Garden

Cleveland Cavaliers

Cleveland Cavaliers have turned themselves from a perennial lottery team to the third seed in the East if the season were to end today. At 19-12, the Cavaliers' .613 winning percentage has surprised even their most ardent fans. The Cavaliers’ turnaround has been keyed by the development of Darius Garland and their rookie Evan Mobley.

Darius Garland was part of a crowded backcourt. The injury to Collin Sexton has opened up the backcourt and allowed Garland to shine. Sexton's minutes have been replaced by a veteran Ricky Rubio. Rubio is more of a traditional point guard.

In contrast to Sexton, Rubio's skill set is based on setting up his teammates rather than just looking for his own shot. With Rubio's ability to control the tempo of the game and veteran playmaking ability, the table has been set for Garland to shine.

Evan Mobley has been the difference in the frontcourt for the Cavaliers. Mobley forms a strong starting frontcourt with Jarrett Allen and Lauri Markkanen. Allen is a great rim protector and traditional center.

Markkanen is a nice "stretch 4", a power forward who can grab rebounds yet is lethal from 3 to create space for his teammates on the offensive end. Mobley can do it all, however. Mobley has the ability to protect the rim yet can get on the perimeter and defend with the ability of a small guard. Mobley is effective inside and out when it comes to the offensive end.

A 7-footer with Mobley's skill set is hard to find. The Cavaliers have been quick to implement his many abilities into their team strategy. The drafting of Mobley and the development of Garland have led the Cavaliers to the top of the standings this season.

Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics have struggled with injuries so far this season. The Celtics have yet to form continuity under their new coach Ime Udoka. The Celtics were missing their two best centers, Al Horford and Robert Williams, in their loss to the 76ers on Monday night. This led Enes Kanter Freedom to be forced to defend Joel Embiid.

Freedom showed why he has struggled to catch on as a starting center on a playoff team. Freedom's defense was almost non-existent as Joel Embiid did whatever he wanted against the tepid resistance that Freedom provided. Freedom is a good scorer on the offensive end but has the habit of giving up even more points than he scores.

The Celtics "J and J" duo of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum might be nearing the end of its run. Both Tatum and Brown have similar skill sets. The Celtics have not been able to find the balance needed in order to make the next step and become a true contender in the East. Brown and Tatum aren't particularly fond of each other either, so it seems that this duo might be nearing the end of their pairing.

In the Celtics backcourt, Marcus Smart and Dennis Schröder handle most of the duties. Schröder is a score-first point guard who has improved his defense. Unfortunately, Schröder does not look to his teammates often and is quick to find his own shot rather than set up his teammates. Marcus Smart is more of a creator but less of a shooter.

Smart is quick to launch open threes but his low shooting percentage often means that his opponents encourage Smart to shoot rather than pass. The playing styles of Schröder and Smart cannot be any more different, and the Celtics have been trying to infuse them properly.

Key Matchup

Darius Garland vs. Marcus Smart

As good as the Cavaliers frontcourt has been, the Cavaliers are still relying on the playmaking and scoring of Darius Garland to key the offense. Marcus Smart is one of the best defenders in the league and will attempt to take away the penchant for high scoring output that Garland possesses.

This is a great test for Garland. If he can do well against Smart, this proves that he is ready to make an impact in the playoffs and not just the regular season. If Garland is able to have a high-scoring night even against Smart's quality defense, the Cavaliers have a great chance to win. If Smart is able to frustrate and shut down Garland, the Celtics will have a major advantage.

Best Bet

Due to the loss of Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, NBA odds are inflated. However, the Cavaliers still have enough to keep pace with the Celtics, even without their starting frontcourt. The Cavaliers will of course be reliant on Garland to win his matchup.

With help from Kevin Love and Lamar Stevens, the Cavaliers can definitely cover this spread. Today's play of the day is Cleveland Cavaliers +6 (-105).

NBA Pick: Cavaliers +6 (-105) with BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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Cavaliers +6 (-105)
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