NBA Odds, Game 1 Preview, Prediction for Celtics vs. Nets: How to Bet Brooklyn’s Big 3 in Playoff Game (May 22)

NBA Odds, Game 1 Preview, Prediction for Celtics vs. Nets: How to Bet Brooklyn’s Big 3 in Playoff Game (May 22) article feature image
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Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Kyrie Irving.

  • The third game of the NBA playoffs gets underway as Brooklyn and its "Big Three" welcome Boston to town.
  • The Nets will be startin Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden together for just the second time since Feb. 15, going against a Celtics team that limped to the finish.
  • With the Nets' stars and Jayson Tatum all in action, Austin Wang explains why there's value on the over.

Celtics vs. Nets Odds

Celtics Odds +8
Nets Odds -8
Moneyline +275 / -360
Over/Under 229
Time Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
TV ABC
Odds as of Friday and via PointsBet

The No. 2 seed Brooklyn Nets are currently the favorites to win the NBA championship, and they get to kickstart their road to the title in round one against the underperforming No. 7 seed Boston Celtics.

Believe it or not, this will only be ninth game this season when the trio of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving will all be on the court for the Nets. Their chemistry may not be completely in sync, but they get a nice and easy exhibition round against the Celtics.

The Nets swept the season series 3-0 and covered the spread as favorites in each game. The score went under the total in all three of the games as well.

    • Dec. 25, 2020: Nets dominate Celtics 123-95 in Boston on Christmas Day behind Irving’s 37 point performance.
    • Mar. 11, 2021: Nets cruise to a 121-109 victory in Brooklyn behind Irving’s 40 points after returning from the All-Star break.
    • Apr. 23, 2021: Nets win 109-104 again in Brooklyn without Harden and Durant.

The Nets did not have all three of their stars in each of those three games, so they have an even bigger advantage this time around. Furthermore, the Celtics will be missing Jaylen Brown for the playoffs, so I don’t think the Celtics stand much of a chance. While I think the spread is in line with my expectations, my eyes are lighting up at the current total. Let’s break down Game 1 below.

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Is a Heroic Game From Tatum Enough for Celtics?

Brad Stevens and the Celtics will want to forget this disaster of a season, as they performed way under expectations and barely squeaked over .500 with a 37-36 record after making it to the Eastern Conference finals in the previous season.

Their young duo of Jayson Tatum and Brown both made leaps forward but did not get much from their supporting cast. Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart both missed significant time, and their free agent pick-ups Tristan Thompson and Jeff Teague (no longer with the team) were inadequate replacements for Gordon Hayward.

They made a mid-season trade for Evan Fournier, but he had to endure a tough battle with COVID-19, which affected his fatigue and his shooting. He ended the season on a good note and was able to add a much-needed scoring punch, especially with Brown done for the season. Without Brown, I can see Fournier picking some of the slack up on offense, but the defense will drop off considerably, leaving the Nets to have very easy opportunities to score.

Tatum will likely have the tall task of defending Durant, while also having to carry the load on offense. Coming off a 50-point game in the win against the Wizards during the Play-In Tournament, I expect Tatum will build on that momentum and expend most of his energy on the offensive end of the court at the expense of his defense.

Underdogs off a game when their leading scorer had 50 points or more have gone 20-9-1 (69%) to the over, per the SDQL database.

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Nets Have So Much Offensive Firepower

The Nets finished the season with the best Offensive Rating (117.3) of all time, easily topping the 2019-2020 Dallas Mavericks(115.9). Keep in mind that this was with each of their stars missing significant time: Durant (missed 37 games), Harden (14) and Irving (18). Imagine how frightening their offense would be at full strength.

The Nets will be happy to get their bearded superstar Harden back on the court as he has missed much of the second half of the season due to a hamstring injury. The “Big Three” are finally getting to play together for only the second time since Feb. 15, 2021.

Irving has made it a point to stick it to his former team, averaging 30.7 points in the three games he has played against them. While the Celtics have the pesky Smart that can defend some of the NBA’s best guards, he won’t be able to stop both Irving and Harden. Walker is not a great defender, and Brown’s perimeter defense will be sorely missed against the stout Nets offense.

The Nets finished the season going 39-31-2 (55.7%) to the over this season, per the SDQL database. This was accomplished with an average total of 232, the second highest in the league behind the Wizards. They were 33-22 (60%) to the over as favorites, and they typically dictate the pace. Even though it is the playoffs and the game typically slows down, I don’t see this happening for the Nets.

Since 2018, teams off three consecutive games with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.25 or greater are 140-84-6 (62.5%) to the over, per the SDQL database. This is active on the Nets, who finished the last four games with an excellent assist-to-turnover ratio of 4.57, 3.0, 2.89 and 2.92. I expect the Nets offense to continue to click and put a lot of pressure on the thin Celtics defense.

Celtics-Nets Pick

Teams facing off in the playoffs when their previous regular-season matchup went under and the total increased from the previous matchup, the over has gone 11-3 (78.6%) since the 2013-2014 season, per the SDQL database.

This is active on this Game 1. I believe the market shades the total a little lower than it should be due to recency bias as their previous matchup went under. In reality, the fact that the total increased from their previous game is an interesting and telling sign, especially when it is a playoff game where the pace is expected to slow down and the defense ramps up.

Bottom line, the Nets will put up a lot of points with their stars back in the lineup. The Celtics do not have the defensive personnel to stop the Nets. Also, the Nets stars all have plenty of playoff experience, so I don’t think they will see the playoff yips that a lot of younger players experience in their first playoff game.

My recommendation is to take the over and bank on the Nets’ history-setting offense to start their postseason with a bang. I agree with the upward market movement from the opening line of 225.5. The total I have calculated for this game is 231, which means I see some value at the current total of 228.5. My prediction is the Nets will cruise to a 122-112 victory.

Pick: Over 228.5 (Up to 230)

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