The Boston Celtics are playing like a legitimate NBA championship contender, and oddsmakers are taking notice.
The Celtics earned a convincing Game 1 win over the Toronto Raptors to begin their Eastern Conference semifinals series Sunday afternoon. The victory improved Boston's playoff record to 5-0, including an average margin of victory of 13 points. The Celtics have now won four of five meetings versus the Raptors this season, and they're 2-0 against Toronto inside the Orlando bubble.
There are a lot of reasons to like the Celtics in this series against the Raptors and in a potential Eastern Conference finals matchup. Boston's scoring depth was awesome during the regular season -- the only team with three players averaging 20-plus points per game -- and it's been strong in the playoffs, too. Kemba Walker continues to look better and better after load managing his knee during the seeding games. Jayson Tatum is playing like the top-15 player we saw for most of the season, and Jaylen Brown continues to look like an All-Star caliber talent.
The Celtics' defense has been tremendous, too. They lead the playoffs in opponents' points per game, defensive field goal percentage and defensive 3-point percentage. Sure it's a five-game sample, but it's not a fluke because the C's ranked in the top four in each of those three defensive categories during the regular season, too.
A possible conference finals series versus the Milwaukee Bucks or Miami Heat would be tough for the Celtics. However, the C's already have beaten both of those teams this season and were competitive in the losses. Milwaukee had the best home record in the league at 30-5, but they don't have the luxury of homecourt advantage in the bubble.
Boston's odds to win the Eastern Conference are even better. Here are the latest East title betting lines, courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook:
Milwaukee Bucks: -180 Boston Celtics: +250 Toronto Raptors: +390 Miami Heat: +800