This has been a long and difficult season for everyone, but especially the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics, who have spent the entirety of the past five months dealing with injuries and COVID-19 related absences. So perhaps it's fitting that they'll meet in the first round of the playoffs.
But while there may be some similarity in terms of the obstacles each team faced, the results are where they differ. Led by perhaps the greatest collection of offensive talent the league has ever seen, the Nets largely coasted to the No. 2 seed in the East, while the Celtics had to scrap their way to the No. 7 seed after winning a game in the play-in tournament.
Unsurprisingly, the Nets are massive favorites to advance in this series. As Game 1 approaches, here's everything you need to know.
(2) Brooklyn Nets vs. (7) Boston Celtics
- Date: Saturday, May 22 | Time: 8 p.m. ET
- Location: Barclays Center -- Brooklyn, New York
- TV: ABC | Live stream: WatchESPN
- Odds: BKN -350; BOS +290 | O/U: 232 (via William Hill Sportsbook)
Nets: Brooklyn's inability to get the No. 1 seed in the East will make their lives harder in the second round, but it didn't really impact their first-round matchup. They are by far the superior team here, especially considering that Jaylen Brown is out for the season and Robert Williams III won't be at 100 percent. While they can't completely overlook the Celtics, this series is going to be much more about the Nets figuring some things out about themselves. They'll finally be back at full strength, but Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden have only played eight games together all season. Even with all of their talent, it will take some time for them all to readjust.
Celtics: After the Celtics beat the Wizards in the play-in game earlier this week, coach Brad Stevens essentially conceded the first-round matchup with the Nets. "Those guys are the best of the best," Stevens said. "Going into that, if I'm a fan, a general fan of the NBA, I have a hard time seeing them lose." While honest, it was still a bit strange for an NBA coach to say that, and really tells you all you need to know. Yes, the Celtics still have Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart, but they've been inconsistent and injured all season long, and are just short on talent against the Nets.
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Eight points is a lot for a playoff game, but the Nets are just clearly the better team here, have everyone healthy and will be at home. They should win Game 1 -- and most games in this series, to be honest -- comfortably.