The Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets return from the All-Star break with a big showdown at Barclays Center on Thursday night.
Boston reeled off four consecutive wins right before the All-Star break to recover from one of their roughest patches in years. Now they will have guard Marcus Smart back after missing the last 18 games due to injury. Brooklyn has emerged as the new betting favorite to win the 2021 NBA title. The Nets are still without Kevin Durant but have won 10 out of their last 11 games. Brooklyn will debut their new acquisition in Blake Griffin.
The Boston Celtics are off to one of their worst starts in years. The Celtics head to the second half of the season with a 19-17 record. They are currently in third place in the Atlantic Division and 4th in the Eastern Conference team standings. Boston heads to this game having won its last four games, but all four contests were played at the TD Garden.
In their last game before the break, the Celtics used a 16-5 third quarter spurt against the Toronto Raptors to break the game open and take the lead for good. Jayson Tatum scored 27 points and grabbed 12 rebounds while Jaylen Brown added 21 points and seven boards to lead the Celtics. Kemba Walker also contributed 15 points for the Celtics who improved to 9-9 without Marcus Smart. Smart is expected to return in this game.
Boston ranks 19th in the league in scoring at 111.7 points per game. They are 18th in rebounding at 43.8 boards grabbed per contest and are 27th in passing at 22.4 assists per game. The Celtics have the 9th best scoring defense in the NBA at 110.8 points per game allowed.
The Brooklyn Nets are starting to reap the rewards of adding James Harden. With the Beard looking adjusted to his new home, the Nets have won 10 out of their last 11 games played. Brooklyn is just one-half game behind the Sixers in both the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference team standings and a win here will put them on top of the mountain. The Nets are the new odds on favorite to win the 2021 NBA title.
In their last game, the Nets defeated the Houston Rockets in James Harden’s first game back in Houston. Harden put up his 8th triple double of the season against his former team, scoring 29 points, grabbing 10 rebounds, and issuing 14 assists. Kyrie Irving added 24 points for Brooklyn while sharpshooter Joe Harris added 19. Kevin Durant continues to be out with injury but the Nets will have Blake Griffin playing his first game since signing as a free agent earlier this week.
Brooklyn is the league’s top-scoring team at 121.1 points per game scored but they have the NBA’s 4th worst scoring defense at 116.1 points per game allowed. The Nets are ranked 14th in rebounding at 44.3 boards grabbed per contest and are 2nd overall in passing at 27.2 assists per game.
The Celtics are 4-1 SU in their last five games played. Boston is 7-12 SU in 19 road games played this season but are 13-7 SU in their last 20 games played against the Atlantic Division. The Nets are 9-1 SU in their last 10 games played. Brooklyn is 9-2 SU in their last 11 games played at home, but are just 5-14 SU in their last 19 games against their Atlantic division rivals. Head to head, these teams have split their last 10 meetings but Brooklyn has won two out of the last three meetings.
Boston will finally have Marcus Smart back in this game, at least that’s what he said. However, you can bet that he will be placed on a minutes restriction if he is indeed available. If Smart does play, it will be a welcome sight for the Celtics who have seen Smart, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Kemba Walker play just a total of 28 minutes together this season.
The Nets are still awaiting the return of Kevin Durant. But Brooklyn will be debuting Blake Griffin in this game. Blake Griffin looks like a shadow of his old self now but he’s still a double-digit scorer and a dependable rebounder. He doesn’t need to be a star here anymore. He can shine by providing Harden and Irving scoring support off the bench.
Both these teams head to the second half of the season on a high note. But overall, Brooklyn’s been the team that’s playing much better. They have even gotten better with Blake Griffin’s addition. I think that this game will be decided by the team with the better offense. No question, that’s Brooklyn:
Prediction Brooklyn Nets
Boston is 2-5 ATS in their last seven games played. The Celtics are 0-6 ATS in their last six games played on the road, 1-5 ATS in their last six games as road underdogs, 1-8 ATS in their last nine games following a straight up win, and 3-8 ATS after scoring 100 or more points in their previous game Brooklyn is 10-1 ATS in their last 11 games played. The Nets are 10-9 ATS in 19 games played at home, 6-0 ATS in their last six games as betting favorites, 5-0 ATS in their last five games against an opponent with a winning record, 8-1 ATS in their last nine games after an ATS win, and 4-0 ATS in their last four Thursday games. Head to head, the Nets are 6-2 ATS in their last eight meetings with the Celtics. Brooklyn is also 4-0 in their last five home games against Boston.
The Celtics finished their first half schedule with a four-game winning streak. However, all of those wins happened at the TD Garden and Boston is just 7-12 away from home this season. The Nets meanwhile have been 9-1 in their last 10 games at the Barclays Center. Brooklyn is starting to emerge as a true title contender with Harden getting more comfortable. Blake Griffin will also make his debut here. I like the Nets to cover this modest spread.
Prediction: Nets –3
The total has gone over in four out of the last five games played by the Celtics. The over is 5-1 in their last six games against the Eastern Conference, 5-1 in their last six games as road underdogs, 5-1 in their last six games against an opponent with a winning percentage of .600 or better, 4-1 in their last five games after a straight up win, 16-5 in their last 21 games after an ATS loss. The total has gone over in 12 out of the last 18 games played by the Nets. The over is 12-4 in their last 16 games against the East, 21-5 in their last 26 games after allowing more than 100 points in their previous game, and 19-7 in their last 26 games as the betting favorite. Head to head, the total has gone over in four out of the last five games played between these two teams.
The Nets are the highest-scoring team in the league at 121.1 points per game scored this season and they have a defense that is just 27th overall at 116.1 points per game allowed. The Celtics are just 19th in scoring but this has been a product of the different injuries they have had to play with during the first half of the season. With their Core Four back, the Celtics should have more than enough firepower to keep up with the high-powered Nets. It may not be enough to win the ballgame, but it will be enough to keep the scores over the total.
Prediction: Over 234.5
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