Celtics vs. Nets Game 3 Preview: The First-Half Bet to Make

Action Network Senior Writer Matt Moore previews the NBA Playoffs Game 3 matchup on Saturday, April 23 between the Boston Celtics and the Brooklyn Nets.

Celtics vs. Nets Odds

Celtics Odds +3
Nets Odds -3
Over/Under 222.5 (-105/-115)
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
Odds via PointsBet. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Brooklyn Nets led by one with less than a second left in Game 1. They led by 17 in Game 2, and by seven in the fourth quarter.

Somehow, the Nets are still 0-2 against the Boston Celtics.

The Nets played better defense than expected in terms of forcing misses, but shot quality suggests they were giving up high-percentage looks.

What does this mean for the series and most importantly, can Kevin Durant get going against the Celtics’ elite defense?

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Celtics’ Defense Shining With Horford

Robert Williams is expected to play limited minutes, which could be a massive swing. The Celtics have had to play small, and while Al Horford has performed great, having Williams to use in small-ball lineups vs. Nic Claxton’s athleticism and to battle Andre Drummond on the glass is a big deal.

The Celtics are just 2-of-10 on uncontested 3-pointers in this series. They have a lot of room for shooting improvement, but they’ve also taken a high number of tough shots.

It needs to be said how important Horford has been in this series. The Celtics’ defense is a whopping 28 points per 100 possessions worse with Horford on the bench.

The Nets have put up points efficiently, even with KD’s struggles. The Celtics will need to keep their offensive production up on the road because for all the talk of their defense (and it has been great on Durant), the Nets are still averaging 113 points per 100 possessions.

The Nets have won the Claxton minutes, but Tatum has toasted him on switches, like he did on this play. If Tatum continues to be the best player in this series — which is certainly saying something — the Celtics will be moving on in short order.

Nets Need to Get Durant Going

Blake Griffin (who hasn’t played in the playoffs yet) is questionable. Ben Simmons is set to return for Game 4 on Monday, according to The Athletic, but he won’t play in this one.

There are so many areas where the Nets can play better.

Most importantly, though, is getting Durant going. Durant has a 28.8% eFG on heavily-contested shots, per Second Spectrum data provided to Action Network. That’s compared to 47.7% expected based not only on shot location and contest level, but specifically Durant shooting those shots.

However, that 47.7% mark is equally concerning. That’s a low figure for eFG%, given it’s the vast majority of Durant’s shots. (33 of Durant’s 41 shots have been heavily contested.)

The Nets need to not only get more makes from Durant, but find ways to get him easier ones. That’s easier said than done with how the Celtics have layered their defense to be physical with him.

Will the Nets do anything to make it easier on Durant, whether using more off-the-catch plays or otherwise? The coaching advantage seems heavily tilted in Ime Udoka’s favor at the moment.

Celtics-Nets Pick

The Nets have been very close in this series and are now at home. But the team has proven to be unreliable. The very fact that the Nets had such good opportunities to steal home-court and couldn’t should insert doubt when it comes to their matchup here.

Williams’ return — even in limited minutes — is huge. The Nets had a size advantage that’s negated with Williams back.

Teams down 0-2 at home are 111-68-2 ATS (62%) in the first half of Game 3. That’s a pretty easy spot to bet, but I don’t want to lay the 3 points vs. a better Celtics team with Williams back.

Pick: Nets -1.5 1H