NBA odds

Celtics vs. Cavs odds: Best NBA picks, predictions as Gordon Hayward eyes return

Celtics vs. Cavs odds: Best NBA picks, predictions as Gordon Hayward eyes return

The Boston Celtics' Christmas present apparently will be delivered early.

Gordon Hayward participated in a shootaround Monday morning and is on track to play against the Cleveland Cavaliers, per the team.

Hayward was expected to be sidelined until Christmas with a fractured hand but is well ahead of schedule, and should give an added boost to a Celtics team that's won five of its last six games.

Can the Celtics keep it rolling against the free-falling Cavs and cover their largest spread of the season? Here are our betting predictions for Celtics-Cavs, as well as two NBA locks against the spread.

(All odds provided by WestGate Superbook.)

Cleveland Cavaliers at Boston Celtics, 7:30 p.m. ET

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Cavaliers, which tips off Monday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Tommy have the call at 7:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Moneyline: The Celtics (-1600) are massive favorites, and with good reason. The Cavs have lost 12 of their last 13 and are in full-on tank mode after a 47-point defeat to the Philadelphia 76ers. No reason to get cute here.

Point Spread: Am I wary of the Celtics being double-digit favorites after all the times they've played down to their competition this season? Yes. But the Cavs have completely mailed it in and are 2-10 against the spread in their last 12 games. Hayward's return inspires a Celtics (-14) rout.

Point Total: Boston should light up a Cleveland defense that just allowed 141 points to the Philadelphia 76ers. The question is whether the Cavs can hold up their end of the bargain. Considering the over has hit in four of these teams' last five matchups and Marcus Smart (eye infection) may not play, I'll take the OVER on the 216 total.

Darren's record picking the Celtics' moneyline, point spread and point total: 30-20-1

NBA Locks of the Night

Orlando Magic (+11.5) at Milwaukee Bucks: The Bucks have won 14 in a row, but they're a pedestrian 12-11 against the spread this season. The Magic have won four in a row and are 4-1 against the spread in their last five road games, so I like them keeping this one in single digits.

Los Angeles Clippers (+2) at Indiana PacersKawhi Leonard won't play in this one and the Clippers have struggled on the road (4-6), but I don't trust a Pacers team that barely beat the New York Knicks and lost to the Detroit Pistons last Friday.

Darren's record picking NBA locks against the spread: 18-15-1

Celtics vs. Nuggets odds: Best NBA picks, predictions for must-see rematch

Celtics vs. Nuggets odds: Best NBA picks, predictions for must-see rematch

Through 20 games, the Boston Celtics have proven they belong with the NBA elites.

They'll have to prove that again Friday night.

The Celtics welcome the 14-5 Nuggets to TD Garden, hoping to avenge their 96-92 loss in Denver two weeks ago. The Nuggets have lost two of their past three, but they're still a deep, talented team led by elite scorer Jamal Murray and versatile big man Nikola Jokic.

Who has the upper hand in this clash of NBA titans? We think we have a good read on the situation, and we'll share our take with our moneyline, point spread and point total betting predictions for Celtics-Nuggets, along with two NBA locks against the spread.

(All odds provided by WestGate Superbook.)

Denver Nuggets at Boston Celtics, 8 p.m. ET

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Nuggets, which tips off Friday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Tommy have the call at 8 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Moneyline: The schedule gods are favoring the Celtics (-160). Like the Heat on Wednesday night, the Nuggets come to Boston on the second night of a road back-to-back. Denver is 6-2 on the road, but it's also 0-1 on the second night of back-to-backs this season. I'll take the C's.

Point Spread: The Celtics would love to have Marcus Smart (questionable with an abdomen contusion) back for what should be a grind-it-out defensive battle. This one will be close, but the strong play of Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker will help the Celtics (-3.5) keep their home winning streak alive and improve to 6-2-1 against the spread at TD Garden.

Point Total: The under seems like the logical play here considering these are two of the best defenses in basketball. But the total is set at 203, and the Celtics haven't scored fewer than 103 points at home this season. If this is a close game as I predict, both teams will barely top 100, pushing the total OVER.

Darren's record picking the Celtics' moneyline, point spread and point total: 28-19-1

NBA Locks of the Night

Washington Wizards at Miami Heat (-10.5): After a grueling back-to-back in Toronto and Boston, the Heat get a home date with the worst defensive team in the NBA. Sharpshooters Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro should have a field day.

Los Angeles Clippers at Milwaukee Bucks (-3.5): What an awesome game between two NBA title contenders. The Bucks didn't see Kawhi Leonard and Paul George last time these teams met, but they also weren't riding a 13-game winning streak. The Clippers are 2-6 against the spread on the road, so make that 14 in a row for Milwaukee.

Darren's record picking NBA locks against the spread: 17-14-1

Celtics make impressive leap in latest 2020 NBA championship odds

Celtics make impressive leap in latest 2020 NBA championship odds

The 2019-20 Boston Celtics have given the sportsbooks a 19-game sample size -- and apparently Vegas likes what it sees.

The Celtics were listed at 18/1 to win the 2020 NBA Finals in SuperBook USA's latest odds update released Monday. That ties them with the Denver Nuggets for the sixth-best odds in the league and the third-best in the Eastern Conference, behind only the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers.

That's a significant jump from a month ago, when Boston was pegged at 40/1 to win the Finals on Nov. 4. But the C's continue to prove their hot start was no fluke: They're tied for third place in the East at 14-5 and still haven't lost at home this season despite losing Gordon Hayward to a hand injury on Nov. 9.

Kemba Walker has come as advertised and leads the Celtics in scoring (21.6 points per game) and assists (5.0 per game), while Enes Kanter has been a solid contributor down low.

But the biggest reason for Boston's strong start has been the play of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who are averaging a combined 40.4 points and 14.2 rebounds and have made significant improvements to their games.

The Celtics face stiff competition in the East in Milwaukee and Philly and will have a good "measuring stick" game Wednesday night against the 14-5 Miami Heat. They also don't have the talent of Western Conference giants like the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers.

But early returns suggest Brad Stevens' club will be very competitive next spring, especially if Hayward comes back at full strength.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Heat, which tips off Wednesday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Tommy & Mike have the call at 7:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.