Celtics vs. Nets Odds
|Time||7:30 p.m. ET|
|Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.|
TNT Thursday’s are back (TNT Tuesday never felt totally right to say), and it’s a strong slate this week.
With Kevin Durant out, this matchup between the 29-12 Boston Celtics and 27-13 Brooklyn Nets isn’t quite what it looked like it was going to be a week ago, but there’s still plenty of star power between these top teams in the Eastern Conference.
For the Celtics, it will be their third game in four nights and the second night of a back-to-back, but they rested Marcus Smart and Robert Williams III on Wednesday against the New Orleans Pelicans, likely in anticipation of this key matchup with the Nets.
For the Nets, it will be their first game without Kevin Durant, who had missed only one game all season before having his knee rolled up on late in the Nets win over the Heat on Sunday. It will be interesting to see who steps up in Durant’s place for the next couple weeks while the Nets try to maintain their place near the top of the conference.
Has the Defense Finally Arrived?
The story for much of this season has been about the difference between last year’s Celtics squad and this year’s version. Under Ime Udoka, the Celtics had a famously strong defense that they rode to a somewhat surprise Finals appearance.
To start the 2022-23 season, the story was reversed, with the offense hitting at a historic rate, while the defense was rather pedestrian. Through the end of November, the Celtics had the 20th-ranked defensive net rating, a far cry from last season’s top-ranked defense. Since the start of December, however, the Celtics have the third-ranked defensive net rating (109.5).
Even still, that figure isn’t quite what Boston was able to achieve last season — a league-leading 106.2. This is also a team prone to some full-game defensive letdowns, as we saw recently when it gave up 150 to the Oklahoma City Thunder without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Who Gets Durant’s Buckets?
Durant has been contributing greatly on both sides of the ball this season, and it’s going to be a huge ask for the Nets to not fall off noticeably in his absence.
If they are able to stay afloat these next few weeks, however, it will likely be due to some strong team defense (Nic Claxton hive, assemble), and some big performances on the offensive end from Brooklyn’s role players.
One such player prone to offensive explosions is Cam Thomas. When Kyrie Irving missed eight games earlier this season, Thomas stepped up. He had a grand total of two points in the eight games before Irving was out, but he entered the rotation and averaged 13.4 points per game in the seven games he got real minutes.
Even more notably, when Irving and Durant were both out against the Pacers in early December, Thomas came off the bench for 33 points in less than 30 minutes. This is a player who is not low on confidence and is not shy with the basketball. Despite averaging just 7.9 points per game in his career, Thomas has twice reached 30 points in a game, and his ceiling on any given night Brooklyn is missing a star is very high.
There is no line for Cam Thomas’ points prop as of writing, and given that he may be coming off the bench Thursday, this prop may not land until the late afternoon, but I’m likely going to be looking to play this over, unless the books really sniff it out.
It’s hard to guess what the books will post as a starting number since this is the first game without Durant, but I am going to guess either 13.5 or 14.5.
I would take the over on either of those figures, and would even consider over all the way up to 16.5 around even money.
What I think I may like even more, however, is the points escalators. We’ve talked in the past about how the books can struggle a bit at the extremes, and Thomas is a player all about the extremes (he also has eight scoreless games this season).
Keep an eye in the Action Network app for what escalators I am able to find, but if you can find Thomas 25+ or 30+, those are angles to look for given that his points scored distribution is not the same as many other players.
Pick: Cam Thomas points over up to 16.5 (-110)