The Brooklyn Nets are trying to become the lowest seed ever to win an NBA title, and many experts continue to like their chances. But are bettors finally starting to doubt their ability to pull it off?
The Nets took step one on that difficult path with Tuesday night’s 115-108 play-in win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, sending them into a first-round playoff matchup with the second-seeded Boston Celtics. The best-of-seven series will start Sunday afternoon at TD Garden.
The earliest lines at several sportsbooks, including DraftKings, had the Nets as series favorites, but gamblers seem to have jumped on the Celtics’ bandwagon, because the lines moved significantly in a matter of hours.
Early action lands on Celtics
DraftKings installed the Nets as -145 favorites when it opened its line, with the Celtics getting +115 odds. They immediately shifted to Nets -135 and Boston +105 and kept moving in the same direction. As of mid-morning Wednesday, the Celtics were favored at -130 and the Nets were getting +110 odds (meaning a $100 bet would yield $110 in profit), while FanDuel moved from opening with each team at -108 to listing Boston at -142 and Brooklyn at +120.
Clearly, the early money has been flowing toward the Celtics, the Eastern Conference’s best second-half team. To this point, the 1995 Houston Rockets are the lowest seed (6) ever to have hoisted the Larry O’Brien championship trophy, while no team seeded lower than third has won the NBA title in the last 10 years.
The Nets remain the third choice to win it all at DraftKings, where their odds are +600. The Celtics are offered at +950 — which makes you wonder why they’re favored in this series.
The sportsbooks have steadfastly kept the Nets among their title favorites despite a topsy-turvy season that saw them finish just six games above .500. The Nets and Celtics also met in the first round of the playoffs last year, with Brooklyn winning in five games.
Celtics also favored in Game 1
The bookmakers like the Celtics to get off to a good start at home, with some New York books (including Caesars) offering them as 4-point favorites Sunday and others (such as BetMGM) offering Boston at -4.5. The best moneyline price on the Nets for the game is +156 at FanDuel. The best moneyline price on the Celtics is -179 at Caesars. The line opened most places at Boston -3.
Charles Barkley on Nets: “I know they can’t beat the Celtics now” pic.twitter.com/4Dcgu0Lg4j
— 98.5 The Sports Hub (@985TheSportsHub) April 13, 2022
Boston won three of four games against the Nets this season, with Brooklyn’s lone win coming back on Nov. 24. The teams were essentially at full strength when they last met on March 6 at TD Garden, where the Celtics won 126-120. The Celtics’ emerging superstar, Jayson Tatum, had 54 points in that game.
The Celtics have one major edge over Brooklyn: a strong defense. Boston finished with the second-best defensive rating in the Eastern Conference behind the Heat, while Brooklyn ranked seventh.
The Nets, as usual, will be looking to ride their two superstars, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. The latter made his first 10 shots from the field Tuesday night. There has been speculation that Milwaukee so badly wanted to avoid the Nets in the first round that it punted on its last game of the season, sitting eight players and using starting point guard Jrue Holiday for just eight seconds in a blowout loss to Cleveland.
Photo: Dennis Schneidler/USA TODAY