The #2 Brooklyn Nets and their Big 3 host the short-handed #7 Boston Celtics in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving plays his old squad and the Celtics would love to pull off a massive first-round upset over the mercurial point guard and the Nets in the first-round series.

Series Boston Celtics Kyrie Irving Brooklyn Nets 2021 NBA Playoffs
Jaylen Brown (7) of the Boston Celtics defends Kyrie Irving from the Brooklyn Nets during a regular-season meeting. (Image: Getty)

The Boston Celtics finished the season with the seventh-best record in the East, and were forced to participate in the play-in tournament. The Celtics defeated the Washington Wizards in the Seven-Eight Game for the right to play the Nets in the opening-round series.

The Nets and Philadelphia 76ers battled for the top seed in the Eastern Conference for the entire season. Injuries to James Harden and Kevin Durant hampered the Nets, who couldn’t catch the top-seeded 76ers.

NBA Playoffs – Series Odds
#7 Boston Celtics (36-36) vs #2 Brooklyn Nets (48-24)
Boston Celtics +700 Brooklyn Nets -1430


Boston Celtics vs. Brooklyn Nets – Series Score
Nets win 4-0 +250
Nets win 4-1 +175
Nets win 4-2 +350
Nets win 4-3 +600
Celtics win 4-0 +8000
Celtics win 4-1 +4000
Celtics win 4-2 +1600
Celtics win 4-3 +1800

Both the public and the oddsmakers think this will be a short series. The Nets sweeping the Celtics pays out +250 odds, according to a series score prop bet by Draft Kings. The Celtics getting knocked out in five games pays out +175 odds.

If you’re feeling frisky and want to fade the Nets, the Celtics winning the series in six games pays out +1600 odds, and a Celtics victory in seven games pays out +1800 odds.

Betting the Nets and Celtics

The Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics played each other three times during the regular season. The Nets swept the Celtics 3-0, and none of the games featured the Big 3. Then again, the Big 3 appeared in only nine games together this season.

The Nets were slightly above average beating the spread with a 38-34 ATS record, whereas the Celtics struggled with a 30-38-1 ATS record. If you have an affinity for betting NBA totals, the Nets were a profitable venture with a 40-32 over record. The Celtics had a 37-36 record hitting the over this season.

The Nets averaged 118.6 ppg this season, or second-best in the NBA. They allowed 115.2 ppg this season or fifth-worst in the league. The Celtics were a middling team on both ends of the court, averaging 112.6 ppg (ranked #16) and allowing 111.5 ppg (ranked #15).

Once word got out that James Harden wanted the Houston Rockets to trade him to the Brooklyn Nets, the Nets became a popular pick to win the championship. They moved up to second place on the NBA futures board even before they finally pulled the trigger on the four-team trade for Harden.

When LeBron James injured his ankle shortly after the All-Star Break, the Nets became the consensus favorite to win the championship. Since late March, the Nets have topped the NBA futures board. The Nets are currently +250 odds to win the NBA championship, according to the most recent update by DraftKings. The banged-up Celtics are +5000 odds to win the NBA title.

You can back the Nets to win the Eastern Conference at -112 odds, but the Celtics are one of the long shots at +1200 odds.

Boston Celtics: All hail Jayson Tatum

Brad Stevens was ready to unleash Beantown’s version of their Big 3 (Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker) to counter Brooklyn’s Big 3. However, the Celtics lost Brown in the last week of the season. It was a huge blow considering Brown posted career numbers.

With Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart missing some time this season with injuries, it was up to Tatum to carry the Celtics by himself for long stretches of time. Tatum etched his name in the Boston history books when he tied Larry Bird for a franchise record of 60 points in a regular-season game. He’s also fresh off a 50-point eruption against the Washington Wizards in the play-in game.

“Jayson was special, man,” said Walker. “He was unbelievable.”

After Walker, Tatum, and Smart, there’s a huge drop off in scoring and playmaking. Which one of Boston’s role players will play like an All-Star this series? The Boston bench, including the newly added Evan Fournier, will be crucial if the Celtics expect to avoid a dreaded sweep.

“Give our guys a ton of credit, it has not always been roses, right?” said head coach Brad Stevens. “They’ve had to answer a lot of stuff, and it’s been hard missing people all year. Our guys have just stayed with it, and they’ve just stuck together.”

Stevens has more playoff experience than Brooklyn’s Steve Nash, who will be experiencing his first taste of the postseason as a rookie head coach. Stevens led the Celtics to seven consecutive postseason appearances with a 37-36 career playoff record. He guided the Celtics to the Eastern Conference finals twice in the previous three years. Last year, the Celtics were ambushed by Jimmy Butler and a red-hot Miami Heat team.

Brooklyn Nets: Power trio, or Big 3 bust?

Irving led the Nets to three regular-season wins over his former team. He averaged 30.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 7.3 assists per game while shooting a perfect 100% from the charity stripe and a sensational 50% from 3-point land. But now that the Nets have their Big 3 in the lineup against a Brown-less Celtics team, can they pull off a sweep?

The high-flying Nets employed a simple defensive strategy: score more points than their opponents to win. They won’t have to worry about containing Tatum. He can score 50 or 60 points a night so long as they can crank out 120-plus points every night.

Harden thrived in his new role as the floor quarterback, which allowed Irving to play a traditional shooting guard role. Harden’s scoring was down, but his assists (10.8) were among the league’s best, trailing only Russell Westbrook.

“I don’t care about stats,” Harden told local NYC reporters. “My impact doesn’t have to show up on the stat sheet for us to win. My job as a leader is to make sure everybody’s playing well. If I’m doing that, I can focus on myself last.”

The Nets added Blake Griffin (10 ppg) to bolster their bench in the postseason once the Detroit Pistons and Griffin agreed to a contract buyout. Now that it’s time for the playoffs, we’ll see how big of an impact Griffin can make off the bench.

The Nets posted the second-best home record in the East at 28-8, and the third-best home record overall.

“The fans here in New York is one of the reasons why I wanted to play here,” said Harden. “It’s going to be a lot more fans, a lot more exciting, more noise. Hopefully a home-court advantage.”

Check out more coverage of the 2021 NBA Playoffs.

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