The Boston Celtics (36-15, 25-25-1 ATS) take on the Brooklyn Nets (31-19, 26-24 ATS) tonight at TD Garden. It’s a matchup of two of the best the East has to offer, but both teams come in playing inconsistent basketball. The Celtics are 1-3 in their last four, and the Nets are 3-6 in Kevin Durant’s absence, though they’re on a two game win streak. The Celtics have taken nine straight from Brooklyn dating back to last season, including the first round of the 2022 playoffs. According to the online sportsbook betonline.ag, the Celtics are currently 9 point favorites
Point Spread: Celtics -9
O/U: 224 points
ML: Celtics -385, Nets +315
Starting PG Marcus Smart (ankle) remains out, and may not return before the All-Star break. Robert Williams III (left ankle sprain) is active tonight after being listed as questionable earlier today.
For the Nets, Ben Simmons (left knee soreness) and TJ Warren (left shin contusion) will each be missing their third straight game after head coach Jacque Vaughn expressed optimism they’d both be healthy on Monday. Kevin Durant (sprained MCL) will continue to sit out, and will next be evaluated Feb. 8. Yuta Wantanabe (back tightness) is listed as probable.
Celtics Projected Starters
PG: Malcolm Brogdon
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Robert Williams III
Nets Projected Starters
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Seth Curry
SF: Joe Harris
PF: Royce O’Neale
C: Nic Claxton
Boston Celtics Overview
It’s been a tumultuous week for the Celtics, losing three straight and narrowly avoiding a fourth straight against Los Angeles on Saturday. They remain on top of the NBA, but there are clear offensive deficiencies that need addressing. As Joe Mazzulla keeps stressing, the Celtics need to execute the simple things properly and space the floor well, especially against a Nets team that has been strong on the defensive end ever since Vaughn took over as head coach.
One area where they can look to improve tonight is three point shooting. The team has shot below 35% from beyond the arc over the last three games, but Brooklyn is a team that doesn’t guard outside shooting too well. With Nic Claxton clogging the paint for Brooklyn, the shooting touch of everyone from Tatum and Brown to Malcolm Brogdon, Grant Williams, and Sam Hauser will be key for the Celtics tonight.
Brooklyn Nets Overview
Unsurprisingly, Kyrie Irving is doing Kyrie Irving things. Over his past 10 games, he’s averaging 31.2 points, 7.1 assists, and 5.4 rebounds. He’s been best in the clutch, averaging 9.6 points in the 4th quarter, the most in the NBA, and dropped 20 in the 4th against the Knicks on Saturday, the fourth time he’s done so this year. Even with Kevin Durant out, the Nets can unleash an offensive barrage with Kyrie and their knockdown three point shooters like Seth Curry and Yuta Wantanabe.
Also crucial to the Nets’ success: Nic Claxton. The 4th year center has always been a strong defender and rebounder, but this season, he’s boosted his offensive game significantly. Before Monday’s game, he was averaging 20 points per game and 10 rebounds per game over his last seven, all while shooting 80% from the field. While so much attention is elsewhere, Claxton is quietly putting up Wilt Chamberlain numbers (seriously, he was the first player since Wilt in 1967 to do this). The Nets will look to Claxton to keep up his dominant play, and the Celtics will need to rely on their bigs to stifle him on the defensive end.
The Celtics have dominated the Nets, but as of late, they’re struggling to work through their offensive inconsistencies. I predict this is the night the Nets reverse trend and Kyrie goes into takeover mode yet again in the 4th, securing the Nets their first win in Boston since November 2021.
Brooklyn Nets 123, Boston Celtics 119