Boston Celtics vs. Brooklyn Nets Series Preview, Prediction, & Odds (2022 NBA Playoffs)

Apr 15, 2022 - 11:03 AM

The seventh-seeded Brooklyn Nets take on the second-seeded Boston Celtics in perhaps the most intriguing first-round series of the NBA playoffs. There is no shortage of storylines in this matchup. We have a rematch of last year’s first-round playoff series where the Nets handily defeated the Celtics in five games. We also have the Kyrie Irving/Celtics drama. Of course, we all remember the hysteria that the former Celtic, now Nets superstar, caused by stepping on the Celtics’ logo before waving goodbye to the crowd following a playoff win in Boston last season. We have the Ben Simmons situation. Is he even going to play in this series? Regardless, this is a fun matchup with plenty of stars on the court. Let’s break it all down.

DraftKings NBA Playoffs

DraftKings Odds

Celtics Series Winner (-130 at DraftKings Sportsbook)

Nets Series Winner (+110 at DraftKings Sportsbook)

Series Correct Score 

Brooklyn Nets

Brooklyn is in much different shape now than it was a year ago. Coming into last year's series, the Nets had their big three of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden and looked like the best team in basketball down the stretch of the regular season. Harden is now out of the picture, and Ben Simmons - who was supposed to be Harden's replacement - has not even begun five-on-five action in practice yet. Brooklyn has also looked very shaky at times this season - hence the reason they are the seven seed. Kyrie Irving's vaccination status is no longer an issue, but the Nets actually were below .500 this year with a 14-15 record even when Irving suited up. Now don't get me wrong, the Nets are certainly better with Kyrie on the floor. He and Durant both have the ability to take over any game offensively. However, the duo does not have much help.

The Nets are going to have to rely on guys like Seth Curry and Bruce Brown to not only help carry some of the load offensively but also serve as key defenders on a Jaylen Brown or even a Jayson Tatum. Aside from Durant and Irving, Brooklyn does not have one player on its roster who ranked in the NBA's top 100 in VORP (value over replacement player) this season. Three-and-D specialist Joe Harris, who is out for the season after receiving ankle surgery, will be dearly missed by Brooklyn in these playoffs. Durant and Irving are still capable of carrying this team, but Brooklyn's lack of depth is a concern.

Perhaps even more concerning is the way Brooklyn has played defense this year. The Nets ranked just 19th in the NBA this year in defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions). Other than Bruce Brown, Kevin Durant, and Patty Mills, who rank 95th, 96th, and 252nd respectively, the Nets do not have anyone who qualified for even a fraction of a defensive win share this season. 513 players qualified. Only three were Nets.

Boston Celtics

Like the Nets, this Celtics team looks a lot different than it did when these two teams met in the playoffs last season. Boston struggled mightily last year after Jaylen Brown went down, but has cemented itself as one of the East's premier teams this season with a healthy Brown back on the court. At the halfway point of this season, the Celtics were 20-21 and looked like a team just hoping to avoid the play-in. However, the Celtics made some moves around the deadline, acquiring Derek White and Daniel Theis, which helped propel them to a 31-10 record in the second half of the season. This was the best second-half record ever for a team that was under .500 halfway through the season.

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are not exactly the same type of duo as Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but they are still in the conversation when you talk about the league's best. Tatum has solidified himself as one of the top players in the sport. Aside from averaging nearly 27 points per game this year, Tatum ended the regular season tied for sixth with Kevin Durant in VORP and finished first in the whole league in defensive win shares. Brown is one of the best young stars in basketball. He averaged 23.6 points per game this year and ranked inside the league's top 20 in defensive win shares.

Where Boston might have the biggest edge in this series is its defense, especially when you compare it to Brooklyn's. The Celtics were the best defensive team in basketball this season according to the defensive efficiency metric. Marcus Smart put his name in the running for defensive player of the year, ranking in the league's top 15 in both defensive win shares and DBPM (defensive box plus/minus). There is a "real chance" that Robert Williams will be able to return from his knee injury in this series. Williams ranked in the league's top five in defensive win shares and DBPM this season. If it was not for his injury, he would be getting the same DPOY love that Smart is getting. Al Horford also ranked in the league's top six in defensive win shares and DBPM.

Prediction & Best Bet

I think it is going to be difficult for Brooklyn to overcome its lack of depth in this series. Given Boston's outstanding defense, it is tough to envision any of Brooklyn's role players providing much offensively. Look for Boston to get creative when defending Durant. Durant and Irving are going to get their points, but as long as Boston can keep them from going off for 40+ regularly, they should be okay. Brooklyn is much worse than Boston defensively. I expect Tatum and Brown to both have a terrific series on the offensive end. If Durant does not guard Tatum, Tatum will dominate. If Durant does guard him, Durant will be gassed by the end of this series.

The star power of Durant and Irving should keep Brooklyn in the series, but I think Boston's advantage on the defensive end and with depth will propel the Celtics into the second round. Boston took the regular-season series 3-1 and has been the better team for most of the year. I believe they are still the better team. I think the Celtics to win the series at -130 is a nice value play.

Best Bet: Celtics to win the series (-130 at DraftKings Sportsbook)


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