Brooklyn vs Boston: Round 1, Free Picks, Odds & Predictions

Brooklyn Nets vs Boston Celtics - 2021 NBA Playoffs Round 1
Brooklyn vs. Boston, Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, May 22, Barclays Center

The Brooklyn Nets overcame a rough shooting night to defeat the Boston Celtics and win the opening game of their first-round series. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving led the way for the Nets, who shut down Jayson Tatum and forced the Celtics to find other secondary scorers to pick up the slack. Boston shot less than 40 percent from the floor for the eighth time this season, rendering it unable to take advantage of an off-night for Brooklyn’s normally top-notch 3-point shooting. The challenge of slowing down the Nets only gets tougher Tuesday in Game 2 at the Barclays Center.

Game 2 (Brooklyn Nets lead 1-0)

May 25, 7:30 p.m., Barclays Center

Kevin Durant scored 32 points and Kyrie Irving added 29 points to lead the Brooklyn Nets to a 11-point victory in Game 1 against the Boston Celtics. Durant and Irving had success despite the Nets shooting just 23.5 percent from 3-point range, an off night for the team with the NBA’s second highest 3-point shooting percentage. Yet the NBA playoffs are about adapting and the Nets found other ways to score while also upping the intensity of their defense. Brooklyn smothered Boston and held it to just 36.9 percent shooting while limiting Jayson Tatum to just 22 points in the loss. The Celtics actually held a six-point lead at halftime, but could not sustain their own defensive efforts as Brooklyn roared back in the third quarter to take control of the game for good.

The Celtics got off to an excellent start to the game and threw Brooklyn’s three superstars out of rhythm with an unmatched intensity on defense. Yet Boston wasn’t executing on offense itself and had one of its worst offensive performances of the season. It was the ninth time in 74 games that Boston made less than 40 percent of its shots and the Celtics failed to reach 94 points for just the sixth time this season. Tatum had to work extra hard for his 22 points and no one else was able to pick up the slack. That obviously must change if Boston is going to win one game in this series because Tatum cannot beat the Nets on his own. The Celtics will need more out of Marcus Smart and Kemba Walker to complement Tatum or just pray that Tatum has a monster game like he had in the play-in round, but that seems unlikely given how much Brooklyn’s defense energized the Nets after their own slow offensive start.

Although Tatum didn’t have a monster game for the Celtics, the Nets also had a pretty poor offensive game by their standards. Brooklyn scored only 104 points, 15 fewer than its season average, and made just 8 of 34 attempts from 3-point range, the Nets’ worst 3-point shooting percentage since April 14th and the fifth-worst Brooklyn has had this season. It’s not as if Boston is an excellent 3-point defense either, so I would expect Brooklyn to make more 3-pointers, which would then put pressure on Boston. And despite the missed shots from behind the arc, Durant still scored 32 points and worked his way to the foul line 12 times and Irving scored 29 points while making 9 of 12 2-pointers. Those are big positives that this series could get out of hand quickly if Brooklyn’s offense heats up again.

As expected, Brooklyn is basically a double-digit-favorite at the top NBA betting sites in New Jersey for Tuesday’s Game 2. That makes finding a good bet on the Nets to win a challenge if you want to earn a little bit of value from betting on Brooklyn. I think Brooklyn’s 11-point win in Game 1 was roughly what to expect from these two teams in the series, so going too high above 9.5 points on the spread is a giant risk. But given how poorly Brooklyn played on offense in Game 1, it’s a risk I’m willing to take at the New Jersey basketball betting sites in New Jersey. I’ll bet on Brooklyn laying 14.5 points at +185 odds from the top sports betting sites in New Jersey, but I’m also going to focus in on James Harden. After an off-game in the opener, I think Harden comes back strong in Game 2 and looks like the force we’ve seen in previous years, so I’m betting on Harden to record a triple-double at +350 odds.

BET ON BROOKLYN NETS TO WIN

Game 3

May 28, 8:30 p.m., TD Garden

 

 

Game 4

May 30, 7 p.m., TD Garden

 

 

Game 5

June 1, TBD, Barclays Center

 

Game 6

June 3, TBD, TD Garden

 

 

Game 7

June 5, TBD, Barclays Center

 

 

Game 1

May 22, 8 p.m., Barclays Center

This might have been a more interesting series if the Boston Celtics were fully healthy, but the loss of Jaylen Brown for the season puts a damper on this first-round matchup. The Brooklyn Nets are finally healthy at the right time and closed the regular-season on a five-game winning streak after riding a four-game losing streak for the beginning of May. Boston had lost nine of their last 14 games in the regular season before holding off Washington in the NBA’s new play-in game to protect the seventh seed and set up the matchup with Brooklyn, which won all three meetings with Boston this season.

Boston has been in the Eastern Conference finals in three of the last four years, but the Celtics took a major step back this season. Some of that can be blamed on COVID-19 because both Jayson Tatum and Brown suffered long-term effects from the virus after contracting it early in the season. Boston not only struggled without either of them on the court, but the two stars weren’t nearly the same players physically once they returned to action. Tatum still averaged 26.4 points per game, an incredible feat given the circumstances, and Brown averaged 24.7 points, but it still didn’t make Boston the same dangerous team it had been in the past. Kemba Walker is going to be tasked with being more consistent in Brown’s absence, and Walker has certainly risen to the occasion in a limited sample size. Walker has scored at least 30 points in three of his last four regular-season games then complemented Tatum’s 50-point outburst in the play-in game with 29 points of his own. That won’t be enough against Brooklyn, so Marcus Smart needs to put forward his best offensive and defensive performances of the year if Boston is going to keep pace with the Nets.

For much of the season, the Nets were very successful as a two-headed beast with a combination of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving due to injuries. But Brooklyn enters the NBA playoffs with all three men healthy and ready to chase a title out of the Eastern Conference. All three of those guards averaged at least 24 points per game with Durant and Irving both averaging 26.9 points per game and Harden averaging 24.6 points per game. The good news for Brooklyn with all the injuries to their three superstars was increased playing time and responsibilities for role players during the regular season. So players like Joe Harris and Jeff Green are now even more dangerous because they are pushed further down the scouting report. Though we talk about Brooklyn’s prolific offense, its defense has been excelling in the back half of the season as well, which is a great sign for the Nets if they progress further in the playoffs. If Brooklyn doesn’t have to rely on its offense to win shootouts and not feel the pressure of matching teams basket for basket then the Nets will likely stick around a bit longer in the playoffs.

It’s been an odd year in Boston and this first-round series with the Nets is a bad matchup for these Celtics. For Boston to even win a game in this series, it will take an extraordinary effort on defense and have Tatum explode for another monster offensive effort. The Celtics lack the firepower the Nets possess, which is why Brooklyn is such a heavy favorite at the top sports betting sites in New Jersey. The sportsbooks are being generous in assuming the Celtics are going to win a game in this series, but I think it will be a swift exit for the underachieving Celtics. I’m booking a Brooklyn sweep at +275 odds on the basketball betting sites in New Jersey.

Brooklyn opens as deserved eight-point favorites for Game 1 at the top NBA betting sites in New Jersey, and frankly it could have been more. It seems like Walker’s presence is the reason why the Nets are not double-digit-point favorites because Walker did shoot well against the Wizards in the play-in round. The issue is I doubt Tatum can replicate his offensive performance against the Nets, and even scoring a reasonable 30-35 points in Game 1 is a 15-20-point dropoff. I don’t know if Boston has anyone who can make up those points, and the Celtics will need all the offense they can get against the Nets. I’ll bet on Brooklyn to win by at least 11 points at +130 odds then focus on the individual efforts from Brooklyn’s superstars. Tatum is favored to score more points than any of the Nets’ trio of superstars, but I think Durant outguns Tatum in this game, so I’ll bet on Durant to score more than Tatum for +215 odds.

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Josh Walfish is an award-winning journalist who has been covering college and professional sports in the United States. He holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University and his work has appeared in the Miami Herald, Chicago Sun-Times and Providence Journal. He most recently chronicled the UMass hockey teams rise to prominence over the last two years for the local newspaper

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