\Without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, Nets-Celtics doesn’t have the same juice, but there will still be plenty to play for on Friday night.
For Brooklyn, playoff positioning may not be as important as player development and the early returns so far are promising. Since being traded from Phoenix, Mikal Bridges has impressed, averaging 23.4 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 3.1 assists as the primary option for head coach Jacque Vaughn. Teammate Cameron Johnson has also proved the price of one Kevin Durant with deadly outside shooting (37.5% from behind the arc on eight attempts a night) and 19.0 points a game. The Nets are just 3-8 since Kyrie Irving’s final game (in Boston) which has dropped them from hosting a first round playoff series to fighting to stay out of the play-in tournament.
The Celtics, on the other hand, are in a tug-of-war with the Bucks for the Eastern Conference’s #1 seed and possibly overall home court advantage throughout the postseason. Boston is a game behind Milwaukee and a game ahead of Denver in the loss column and with less than twenty games to go, every win could be the difference in hosting or hitting the road for a Game 7. After their worst shooting night of the year in a loss at Madison Square Garden and a net-torching win against the streaking Cavaliers, their shot selection and reliance on three-point shooting has again been topic du jour in Boston. With the Celtics shooting the second most threes a night and making them at the sixth highest rate in the league, Joe Mazzulla’s third-ranked offense has a clear identity heading into the playoffs, even with their All-Stars Jaylen Brown (33.7%) and Jayson Tatum (35.5%) having their worst career shooting seasons from 3.
In the Western Conference night cap, the Nuggets host the Grizzlies with revenge in mind. Nearly a week ago, Memphis hosted the current #1 seed in the conference and thrashed Denver 112-94. Ja Morant may still be “fine in the West,” but this late in the season, Memphis might have their sights in the rearview rather than chasing Nikola & The Nuggies. Denver has a five-game cushion on Memphis who is trying to stave off a Kings team who have won seven of their last nine games and a Phoenix team working Kevin Durant back into the fold.
The Celtics are 10.5-point favorites hosting the Nets and the Grizzlies are 5.5-point road dogs at Mile High. Since last year, Tatum and Brown have combined for 41, 48, 75, 50, and 57 points in five games against the Nets. Our friends at DraftKings have an interesting quick single game parlay for you: if the Celtics win on the moneyline and Tatum and Brown score over 30+ and 20+ respectively, DraftKings is giving +215 odds. Good luck!