Is Boston overvalued in the series opener? (April 17)

Nets vs. Celtics Odds

Thread dimensions +4.5
Celtics odds -4.5
More less 224.5
Weather 3:30 p.m. ET
Odds via PointsBet. Keep up to date NBA odds here.

The time has finally come for the Brooklyn Nets and the Boston Celtics.

Throughout the year, the Nets have underperformed with a myriad of explanations for their lackluster record. Kyrie Irving was not eligible to play due to vaccine requirements. Then he joined the team but couldn’t play at home. Then Kevin Durant was injured. Then James Harden left.

There’s the constant refrain that this team didn’t need to worry about the regular season, that this team didn’t need continuity or consistency; it just needed to have the playoff lights on.

Irving and Durant are healthy, unlike last year, and whether or not Ben Simmons plays by the end of the series, they have a chance to show that chemistry, culture and, well, defense. don’t matter. What matters are the superstars, and they have two.

The Celtics transformed their season, then continued to transform it, then transformed it from good to great, then from great to elite and finally the best team in the league for the past four weeks.

And yet, it’s hard to believe that this team has suddenly become this well apparently overnight. Are they really title contenders? A juggernaut? Just like that?

This series has massive drama and huge implications for both teams. We bet Celtics-Nets.

Can the nets make enough defense?

Ben Simmons stays out until at least Game 4 of this series, Joe Harris is out for the season and Seth Curry is nursing a bad ankle but will play.

The Nets lost the season series to the Celtics 1-3, but of course the Nets’ disastrous season needs to add some context. The only time Durant and Irving were both available was in the final game on March 6. The Celtics also won that game by six points after getting 54 from Jayson Tatum.

There isn’t necessarily a big advantage in this game or this series for Brooklyn behind their obvious: no one can stop Durant or Irving from scoring. These guys miss or they don’t miss, and they usually don’t.

Boston uses a switch pattern to slow the movement of the ball. The Nets rank ninth in the league in scoring against the defense change despite all their absences. With Durant and Irving on the ground, their points-per-possession mark goes from 0.995 to 1.005, which would be fourth-best in the league.

The question is of course that of their defence. The Nets have two approaches they can take defensively. The first is a small-ball, all-switch option with Nic Claxton. Over the past 15 games, the Nets’ defense has posted a defensive rating of 105.2 with Claxton on the court and a defensive rating of 116.8 with him off the court.

Their counter is their starting unit with Andre Drummond. This has a big advantage in this series with Robert Williams III released. Neither Al Horford nor Daniel Theis can handle Drummond’s size on the glass. Horford is still an elite defender, but he’s just not as strong or snappy as he once was.

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Bruce Brown #1 of the Brooklyn Nets, Al Horford #42 of the Boston Celtics.

A big factor in that will be Bruce Brown. Think of Brown as the Marcus Smart counter. He can trade against multiple defensemen, he creates very well on the short throw if the Celtics double up Irving or Durant, and he can attack and score on his own.

If the Celtics are trying to get super small, Brown next to Durant is a great front-row counter. If the Celtics get big, Brown can function as a counter guard for Smart.

Durant’s defense is going to be critical in this series. Jayson Tatum has an eFG of 44% this season and 41% the last three seasons against Durant.

Meanwhile, Durant and Irving must force double teams against Boston. The Celtics are ready; they double team isolations for fifth in the league. But when it does, it opens up shots for Seth Curry, Brown and Patty Mills on the perimeter.

If Mills and Curry hit, it will swing the offensive advantage to Brooklyn.

That said, the Nets take more shots from mid-range than anything else, third in the league:

Boston holds opponents at the second-lowest percentage in the league. If you think the Nets are going to hit because of their talent, Brooklyn has the edge. If you think the Celtics can disrupt them, you should like Boston.

What will Boston look like without Timelord?

With Williams likely out for the entire first round, Boston will have to face Al Horford and Daniel Theis in this game. Brown wasn’t wrong when he said the Nets were excited to attack those matchups.

Bruce Brown: “The fact that they don’t have Robert Williams is huge. Now we can attack Horford and Theis.”

— Matt Brooks (@MattBrooksNBA) April 13, 2022

Horford has really struggled to change against Brooklyn this season. The Nets shot 70% eFG%, scoring 31 points on 25 possessions when Horford changed.

Horford is much better at dropping coverage, but you can’t give that much space to Irving and Durant. So they will either try to blitz superstars to level, making it harder to contain back and edge, or switch it up and live with it.

If you want to bet on the Celtics, you have to believe in the Celtics offense. As I mentioned, Tatum has struggled Durant this season and for his career even with that 54-point game on March 6.

Another notable thing about that big March 6 win for Boston: They were outscored by possession in pick-and-rolls, isolates, cuts and post-ups. Boston was +5 in turnover points and +14 in transition. That was the game right there.

If Brooklyn comes back to cut transition points, it could be a tough game. Boston’s offense has been great lately, but keeping up with Brooklyn is a challenge.

Nets Celtics Pick

As of this writing, cash and tickets are coming to Brooklyn in the Action Network app, but we’ve been tracking five big moves in Boston (you can see the snappy action, big bets, and pro systems for all Sunday games here).

It makes me nervous, but I still like Brooklyn +4.5 here. The Celtics were 6-point favorites in the March 6 game, the Nets figured out a lot about their rotation, and they only pushed this game on the back of transition advantage when things slow down in the playoffs.

Williams is the big differentiator here. I think he’s worth more to the gap, especially against Brooklyn, than the line counts.

The Nets are 5-5, 6-4 this season with Durant as their dog. I like the Nets at 4. I’m not apprehensive about the total, but this trend stands out.

Game of the series #1 of #NBAPlayoffs ON TOTAL!!

Since 2015….
NBA Playoff Series Game 1 is now 60% below

When the total is 217 or more….
The O/U is 14-44-2 (76%) UNDER!!

— Ralph Michaels (@CalSportsLV) April 15, 2022

I’ll follow that trend here, especially in a grind-it-out game.

To take: Nets +4.5 | Less than 224