The Daily Sweat: East-leading Celtics face West-leading Suns in marquee game

The Phoenix Suns have been the best team in the Western Conference this season, with a 16-8 record.

Yet, they're home underdogs on Wednesday night.

The Boston Celtics have been even better than the Suns. They're 20-5, which is the best record in the NBA. On Wednesday night, the Celtics play at Phoenix and they're favored by 1.5 points at BetMGM. That's despite the Suns' 12-2 home record.

The key question, in terms of the injury report, is whether Chris Paul will return from a sore heel. He hasn't played since Nov. 7. The Suns have gone 9-5 without him, but are clearly better with him running the offense.

The Celtics have been unbeatable most of the season, due mainly to their offense and overall depth. Jayson Tatum is averaging 30.8 points per game and could be the league's MVP. Jaylen Brown is averaging 26.7. Four others are in double digits. Boston hasn't even played a game with center Robert Williams III, who will immediately boost their defense. Boston lost in the NBA Finals last season and seems intent on making sure that they win it all this time.

Still, for as great as the Celtics are, the Suns are a very good team and their two home losses came by two points to the Portland Trail Blazers on Nov. 4 and a shocking one-point loss to the Houston Rockets on Dec. 2. That home-court advantage gives Phoenix a chance.

It should be a great matchup. Maybe we'll see them meet up again next June.

Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics are off to a great start this season. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics are off to a great start this season. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images) (Cole Burston via Getty Images)

Here's a first look at the sports betting slate for Wednesday:

Big day in the NBA

It will be a little weird not having World Cup matches early in the day. The tournament resumes Friday with a couple of quarterfinal matches. College football bowl games don't start for another week.

That means the NBA is up. There are 10 games, including an ESPN doubleheader that features Celtics-Suns. The first game in the doubleheader is the Atlanta Hawks at New York Knicks, which isn't great but it appeases the networks' desire to show the mediocre Knicks as much as possible. The 11-13 Knicks are a 1.5-point favorite over the 13-11 Hawks at home.

ESPN couldn't have known that the better game for that time slot might have been the Sacramento Kings at Milwaukee Bucks. The Kings have been one of the league's surprises at 13-9. They can make a big statement by beating the Bucks, who have the second-best record in the NBA at 17-6. The Bucks are 6.5-point favorites, and it wouldn't be surprising to see the Kings cover.

NHL, college basketball have some good games

In the college hoops world, UConn at Florida is the marquee game. UConn is off to a great start and might be a Final Four team this season. They're 4.5-point road favorites at Florida, and while they're the better team it's hard to win on the road.

In the NHL, the top game could be the Boston Bruins, at 20-3-1, at the reigning Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche. Colorado will be without one of its stars, Nathan MacKinnon, for a few weeks due to injury. Boston is a -175 road favorite, which speaks to how good the Bruins have been this season.

What's the best bet?

It's hard to go against the Suns at home, but it seems like this is the type of game in which the Celtics will be at their best. It's a national TV spotlight against the best team in the Western Conference. Boston will be sharp. Take the Celtics.