NBA Odds, Preview, Prediction for Nets vs. Celtics Game 4: Can Tatum Boost Another Offensive Outburst? (May 30)
Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics.
- After Jayson Tatum's 50 points got the Celtics on the board, Boston looks to even its series against the Nets on Sunday night.
- Brooklyn couldn't contain the Celtics' All-Star forward, and now Boston could pull off a big upset in evening this first-round series.
- Raheem Palmer breaks down the betting value in the matchup below and delivers his best bet for the game.
Nets vs. Celtics Game 4 Odds
|Moneyline||-275 / +215|
|Time||7 p.m. ET|
Don’t call it a comeback. Through the first two games of this series, the Boston Celtics looked dead in the water, making the rest of the series feel like a formality.
After a disappointing season full of injuries and inconsistent play, no one would have blamed the Celtics for packing it in and all but calling it a season with a 1-2-3 Cancun chant.
The Celtics had other ideas. Behind a playoff-career high 50 points from Jayson Tatum, they fought their way back into the series with a 125-119 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night.
Now they meet again for a pivotal Game 4 where oddsmakers have installed the Nets as 6.5-point road favorites over the Celtics with a total of 229.
So where’s the betting value for this matchup? Let’s analyze both sides and find out.
Offense is Brooklyn’s Bread and Butter
When the Nets went up 19-4 in the first quarter of Game 3, this series felt over. This team has been so good it overshadows the fact that Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving have played just 11 games together this season.
With Durant and Harden missing a combined 65 games due to injury this team is still first in Offensive Rating, scoring 119.4 points per 100 possessions in their non garbage time minutes according to Cleaning the Glass. They’re also scoring 125.6 points per 100 possessions in the postseason and still firing on all cylinders.
With three isolation scorers in Durant, Harden and Irving, the ball does have a tendency to stick as it did in Friday night’s loss. Harden scored 41 on 11-of-18 shooting, Durant scored 39 of 13-of-24 shooting while Irving struggled, scoring just 16 points while missing 11 of his 17 shots.
More importantly, the rest of the team outside of the Big 3 scored just 23 points and the Nets had just 16 assists, which was 15 lower than Game 2. Joe Harris had a standout performance in Game 2, scoring 25 points on 9-of-14 (64.3%) shooting but in Game 3, he shot 3-of-9 (33%) for just eight points.
When you factor in the absence of Jeff Green who is out for the series with a strained plantar fascia, the Nets lose a major rotational piece who brought floor spacing and defensive versatility. Green was shooting 41.2% from behind the arc this season and playing him as a small-ball 5 created for the Nets best lineup this season.
In five minutes with Green at the five along with Irving, Harden, Harris and Durant the Nets have a Net Rating of 16.4, an Offensive Rating of 136.4 and a Defensive Rating of 120. When you remove Harris and add Nicholas Claxton, the Nets have a Net Rating of 66.7, an Offensive Rating of 166.7 and a Defensive Rating of 100.
Both of these have small sample sizes in the playoffs but we’ve seen the impact Green lineups have in the regular season. In 76 minutes, the Irving-Harden-Harris-Durant-Green lineup has a Net Rating of 17.4, an Offensive Rating o 125.6 and a Defensive Rating of 108.2. Nonetheless, his impact can’t be understated particularly on a team without many reliable wings or bigs.
The Nets still had an Offensive Rating of 125.4 in Friday night’s loss so it’s clear that this offense is unstoppable. The biggest issue lies in their ability to defend as they gave up 125 points on 1.31 points per possession. Defense has been their Achilles heel all season long and it certainly is a bigger issue without Green in the lineup.
This team also struggles to rebound when they do get a stop which is problematic for a team without many bigs. The Nets are 25th in Defensive Rebounding Rate (71.3) and were out rebounded 46-37. The Nets were 29th in opponent second chance points in the regular season, allowing 15.3 points per game.
This was an issue in Friday night’s loss to the Celtics, but with Irving having a poor shooting night, this was one of the few times the offense couldn’t make up for the defensive deficiencies.
How Long Can Jayson Tatum Carry the Celtics?
I’ve run out of superlatives to describe Jayson Tatum. At just 22 years old, he’s already among the league’s best talents, capable of raising any team’s floor and ceiling. He certainly proved it Friday night with a historic performance, scoring 50 points on 16-of-30 shooting (53.3%) while dishing seven assists and grabbing six rebounds.
One of the biggest factors in the Celtics’ two blowout losses was his struggles as he shot just 6-of-20 for 20 points in Game 1, and 3-of-12 for nine points in Game 2 which he played just 21 minutes as he left the game early after being poked in the eye by Kevin Durant.
Tatum showed that you can’t hold down a great player for too long, though. He responded in a big way Friday night, abusing switches, hitting step back jumpers, drawing fouls, getting to the charity stripe 15 times as well as hitting a clutch game sealing jumper over Kevin Durant.
As great as Tatum was in Game 3, he didn’t do it alone — Marcus Smart also scored 23 points on 8-of-11 (72.7%) shooting while Tristan Thompson had a major impact by cleaning up on the boards and outscoring the Nets 13-5 in second chance points.
Thompson grabbed 13 rebounds, including nine offensive rebounds while scoring 19 points on 8-of-13 (61.5%) shooting. If there’s a recipe to beating the Nets, it’s grabbing offensive rebounds, keeping them out of transition and generating second chance points to give yourself more opportunities to score against a team with the most efficient offense in NBA history.
The Celtics had 32.5 Offensive Rebound rate compared to the 23.3 for the Nets and that will need to continue for them to have a chance at winning this series. With Robert Williams leaving Game 3 with a sprained ankle and his status unclear for Game 4, the Celtics could be fighting an uphill battle.
If the Celtics are going to have any chance at winning Game 4, they will need better play from Kemba Walker who has been downright abysmal during this series. Given the absence of Jaylen Brown, Walker was expected to pick up some of the scoring load.
He’s done anything but that as he’s coming off a Game 3 performance in which he scored just 6 points on 3-of-14 shooting. For the series, Walker is averaging just 12.7 points, 4 assists and 4 rebounds on 31.7% shooting while also shooting just 17.6% from behind the arc. I don’t expect Walker to continue to play this poorly, but if he can’t get going, this series will be over in five.
The pace of this series hasn’t been particularly fast. The average pace of this series is just 94.8 with 91.3 possessions in Game 1, 98.1 in game 2 and 94.9 in Game 3. Still, the totals have gone over in the last two games due to the hyper efficient offense from the Nets.
We’ve seen nothing that will expect that to change and it speaks volumes that Game 3 went over despite poor shooting performances from both Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker. Game 2 also went over even with the Tatum playing just 20 minutes after being poked in the eye.
There’s a reason oddsmakers opened this total at 229 and I can’t help but think this means we’re getting another high scoring game. I’ll play the over here and if we get anything from Irving and Walker, we should hit this with no problem.
Pick: Over 229 (-110)