Nets vs. Celtics Game 2 Preview: Bet Brooklyn to Bounce Back Wednesday

Game 1 of Nets-Celtics was a thriller. How will Game 2 play out? Action Network Senior Writer, Matt Moore, previews how to bet the matchup.

Nets vs. Celtics Odds

Nets Odds +3.5
Celtics Odds -3.5
Over/Under 226
Time 7 p.m. ET
Odds via PointsBet. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

Game 1 of this Brooklyn Nets vs. Boston Celtics series was an instant classic. A monster performance from Kyrie Irving was topped only by a buzzer-beating twisting layup from Jayson Tatum for the one-point win.

There’s a lot to break down from what we saw in Game 1, but trying to figure out how to bet this matchup going forward is extremely fraught in a series that feels like this much of a coin flip.

Let’s do it anyway and bet Nets-Celtics Game 2.

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Will the Nets Make Immediate Adjustments?

Usually in a playoff series, at least in the past few years, the big adjustment to make is pretty simple: go small. The first team that can go to a small-ball lineup and can play small-ball better wins. It happens time and time again.

On the surface, Game 1 looked very much like this for the Nets. They were -13 with Andre Drummond on the floor and +10 with Nic Claxton on the floor. That seems to paint a pretty clear picture.

But let’s actually break this down, from the Drummond perspective. In his first stint starting, Drummond was -2, basically a coin flip. In his second stint, Drummond was +2. Then in the third, he was -11, and he didn’t play in the fourth.

In that third quarter, you can’t really find any examples of him specifically getting beat.

Bruce Brown (who notoriously said they were excited to “attack” Al Horford and Daniel Theis, whoops) got beat for an offensive rebound on this play that Drummond can’t be expected to track, and it leads to an open 3-pointer for Marcus Smart.

Smart was 4-of-5 from the field and 3-of-4 from behind the arc in that stretch. He can have these stretches — Smart’s a 33% 3-point shooter this season and 32% for his career — but the point here is that these buckets are not at all about Drummond.

When the Celtics did put Drummond in pick-and-roll on this play, he did fine

On this play, Bruce Brown just gets worked by Jaylen Brown. Drummond comes to help but Brown gives up position to them. The point here is that Drummond wasn’t the problem, on either end.

The Celtics did a good job of jostling and bothering Kevin Durant before the catch.

That is how you defend Durant. So they did their job. But Durant was 9-of-24. In 152 total playoff games, there are just seven instances of Durant attempting at least 24 shots and making nine or fewer buckets. It doesn’t happen. Durant has six total streaks of shooting worse than 40% in the playoffs.

It happened in 2018 against the Houston Rockets, a switching defense like the Celtics, but Boston is much better. It also happened in 2016 against the Golden State Warriors, another switching defense like Boston that was very much on that same level. It hasn’t happened otherwise since 2015.

It’s entirely possible based on those profiles that the Celtics really can wear Durant down. However, even in those series, Durant had massive games. The takeaway should not be that Durant is not going to play like that again. It’s that the odds are just as good that Durant goes for 30-plus and shoots better than 50% from the floor.

The Nets also have other options here. Goran Dragic gave them a real lift and could be relied upon if Seth Curry is just not feeling good on his ankle. If they need another big option, they can dust off LaMarcus Aldridge or go super small with Blake Griffin.

This is where you run into problems trying to predict what coaches will do. A pretty easy adjustment for Nash would be to do the opposite of what he did in Game 1. Nash tried to match the Celtics’ size (Horford and Daniel Theis) in the starting unit with Drummond and countered small with Claxton.

The counter would be to flip those two. Horford was -5 when Claxton was on-court, and +13 when Claxton was on the bench. Nash could bring Claxton in and switch-all vs. the starters, then bring Drummond off the bench for pick-and-roll with Dragic and beat up Grant Williams on the glass.

But will Nash go to that already?

I wouldn’t expect those options until later in the series.

A better Durant performance and a slightly worse Smart performance and Drummond is a net positive. A slightly worse Irving performance and a slightly better Derrick White performance, and the Nets don’t win the Claxton minutes by so many.

But the Nets do seem to have advantages with Claxton, and the Drummond minutes might not be that bad.

How Much Better Can the Celtics Play?

Boston got a monster Jayson Tatum game and a terrific game from Smart. Everything was great, basically, except for their bench. Grant Williams was a -17. So was it Williams’ fault?

No. Williams was on the court for the Nets’ fourth-quarter run by Irving when he was blackout insane. There was nothing to be done.

The Celtics had a lot of success in Game 1. Their game plan should be to replicate that, hope Irving doesn’t hit absolutely any shot he throws up, hope Jaylen Brown is just a little better and Tatum repeats his Game 1.

That’s all doable.

Nets-Celtics Pick

I picked the Nets to win this series, and I’m not really shaken by the Game 1, outside of its prospect being the coin flip game that decides it.

In Game 1, the Celtics had:

  • More made 3’s
  • More points in the paint
  • More second-chance points
  • More points off turnovers
  • A bad game from Kevin Durant

And they won by one point on a buzzer-beater.

Here’s where I get to with this series: it’s a coin flip. Every game should be a pick ’em, regardless of home vs. away. The line is -3.5, down a full point from -4.5. If you’re getting points with either team in this matchup, that’s what you should bet until one team finds a tactical knife they can really twist.

The Celtics were excellent at home this season; the Nets were great on the road. I don’t find a reason to think the Celtics can outclass this team the way it’s been portrayed. The Nets’ defense isn’t as good as Boston’s, but they have the personnel to keep them within range for their explosive offense.

While the Nets won their minutes with Claxton on the floor against Horford, the five-time All-Star still grabbed 11 rebounds against Claxton. I expect Claxton to play more minutes in Game 2 after playing 31 in Game 1.

Pace was uptempo at 97, and both teams put up a 117 Offensive Rating despite such good defense from Boston. The over has value but I’m staying away with the number moving down a full point from open; I don’t want to fade the market reaction.

Pick: Nets +3.5 | Horford over 10.5 rebounds  Lean: Over 226