The Boston Celtics should beat the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
At least that’s what basketball bookmakers believe.
Boston actually opened as an underdog (+125) at DraftKings Sportsbook late Tuesday night, but that lasted all of about 10 minutes because the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas hung Boston -150 and Brooklyn +130 shortly after. Most shops across America felt good about making the Celtics the favorite.
“We were always desperate to have the Celtics favored,” PointsBet trading director Jay Croucher told NESN. “They’re clearly better than the Nets with home court. It was a matter of what price we could get away with on Brooklyn. We opened Boston -115 and now we’re up to Boston -134. I don’t think the public realizes how bad this Nets defense is and how solid the Celtics defense is.
“All our sharp accounts are betting Boston, too.”
Celtics series prices vs. Nets:
-130 DraftKings ($130 wins $100)
-150 SuperBook ($150 wins $100)
Even though the Celtics are running circles around the Nets as far as current form goes, there’s always a possibility that with three All-Star players — Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons — the Nets can quickly figure things out and morph into the title contender we thought they’d always be.
It’s still an interesting challenge when a sportsbook has to balance potential and reality.
“It’s calculated guess work, but every game will provide really valuable data,” Croucher explained. “With a team like Brooklyn, we’ll be much quicker to adjust our rating on a game-to-game basis. We know what Miami and Milwaukee are, but if Brooklyn blows the doors off Boston in Game 1, we’ll react much more rapidly. We’ll have our fingers on the trigger in case we need to make a Nets-related correction.
“As you know, we’ve had Brooklyn title futures on the shorter end — probably too short — all season in case they do figure it out. Title odds are more about upside than anything and even though there’s a lot of uncertainty around the Nets, you can’t ignore their upside if everything comes together.
“There are very real scenarios where a fully realized Nets team is favored over the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Finals. There’s that much variability if Ben Simmons is fully healthy and playing to his potential. We just haven’t seen them play defense yet.
“But the best version of Brooklyn might be the best team in the league.”
And yet the worst version of Brooklyn could and should get bounced in the first round against a Celtics squad that prides itself on defending the hell out of its opponent. I truly believe you would rather face the Nets early in the postseason before they find their rhythm and reach their potential.
A first-round matchup when Durant, Irving and Simmons are all trying to fit square pegs in round holes is a whole lot more advantageous than facing a fully-fledged Nets offense that’s flying up and down the floor and dominating games in transition. Nobody wants to deal with that.
At the end of the day, oddsmakers still expect a very tight series between the Celtics and Nets that could easily go the distance. Croucher told me PointsBet is offering a “series total games” market where you can bet on whether the series ends in four, five, six or seven games.
And there’s been decent action on there being a Game 7 at TD Garden for all the marbles.
“It’s a very unusual No. 2 versus No. 7 series because Brooklyn is a very unusual team. We have a seven-game series as the favorite and that game will be in Boston, which is why the Celtics are favored to advance.”