LOS ANGELES, CA – FEBRUARY 21: Brooklyn Nets Guard Kyrie Irving (11) make a pass during a NBA game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Los Angeles Clippers on February 21, 2021 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, CA. The game was played without fans due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)
- The Boston Celtics hobble into Game 1 against the Brooklyn Nets as 8-point underdogs on Saturday night (TNT, 7:30 pm EST)
- With star forward Jaylen Brown out and starting center Robert Williams hurt, the Celtics are without much of their firepower against Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden
- Read below for a full breakdown and picks on the game
The Boston Celtics got a crucial win in the NBA Eastern Conference Play-In Tournament earlier this week against the red hot Washington Wizards. Unfortunately, the likelihood they keep things going in their first round playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets isn’t great.
Brooklyn is a an eight-point home favorite against the Celtics, and have won all three regular season meetings with them this season. The two most recent games took place at the Barclays Center, which is where the two sides meet again on Saturday. The Nets were much smaller favorites in those games, but but covered in both and won by double digits in the each of the first two they played.
Boston Celtics vs Brooklyn Nets Game 1 Odds
|Team||Spread at FanDuel||Moneyline||Total|
|Boston Celtics||+8 (-110)||+300||O 229.5 (-108)|
|Brooklyn Nets||-8 (-110)||-375||U 229.5 (-112)|
Odds as of May 21st
Brown-less Boston Faces Uphill Battle
On May 13, Celtics forward Jaylen Brown had scapholunate reconstruction surgery to repair an injured wrist he suffered at the end of the regular season. Although it’s not entirely clear when the injury occurred, it’s certain that he has a minimum three-month recovery following the procedure.
This could very well be the play and game that Jaylen Brown suffered his wrist injury pic.twitter.com/6bBHkrHldC
— Celtics on CLNS (@CelticsCLNS) May 11, 2021
Prior to the win against Washington, Boston only won 2 of its final eight regular season games, and in the two games Brown played before shutting things down, he shot 23% from the field. Without him in the lineup Boston is forced to rely more heavily on Evan Fournier at the three position. While Fournier has played well enough down the stretch with his new team, in his two playoff series as a starter for the Orlando Magic, he shot 33% and 35.7% from the field.
Brown had the second-highest usage percentage on the team this season and the second-highest effective field goal percentage amongst Celtics starters this year. Center Robert Williams leads all starters in that category, but it’s reasonable to not expect him to be at his best on Saturday after he aggravated a toe injury against the Wizards. Williams is listed as questionable, but left the game against Washington in the first half and was unable to practice on Friday.
Brooklyn Ready to Run Boston Out of the Gym
Nets head coach Steve Nash nearly has his full arsenal at his disposal, with the exception of guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who has been out since the beginning of the season.
James Harden is a VIBE pic.twitter.com/jdM61aHLwh
— Gump Cathcart (@bubbagumpino) May 17, 2021
Brooklyn has been maximizing its opportunities on offense, and over its last three games, has averaged just over 100 possessions a game. At the same time, the Nets have scored the third-most fast-break points per contest and the highest fast-break efficiency during that stretch. The Nets have also had the highest field goal percentage and second-highest three-point percentage in the league. The Celtics have been reasonably strong on defense and on the boards, but with Brown out and Williams’ status up in the air, things aren’t likely to play out that way on Saturday.
James Harden, who has been on a minutes restriction in Brooklyn’s final two regular season games following a hamstring injury, is expected to resume his normal workload for the playoffs. Honestly, the Nets’ superstar trio of Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have had a few lackluster showings by their own standards towards the end of the regular season, but all three are proven playoff performers.
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Should Boston Consider Forfeiting?
The Celtics don’t have much to look forward to in this series, and has even less reason to think Game 1 should be worth showing up for at all. Boston’s roster is in a worse place now than it was when it got blown out by Brooklyn in those first two regular season meetings, while the Nets’ has improved.
The Nets have covered in their last five games overall and in six of their last seven at home. Brooklyn should beat Boston handily, but playoff basketball doesn’t typically lend itself to gaudy point totals. Considering the state of the Celtics’ roster, the likelihood of dialing Harden back once the game is in hand, and the high total of 229.5, the under is a sensible play. Moreover, this is going to be a tough start to a rough series for Boston and taking Brooklyn minus any single-digit number is recommended.
The Pick: Brooklyn -8 (-110)
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Nick Krueger has over a decade of experience in sports media, covering a wide range of events including two Olympic Games for Yahoo Sports. Other areas of focus for Nick throughout his career have included college football recruiting, NCAA athletics and Major League Baseball Spring Training.