A matchup between the Boston Celtics and the Brooklyn Nets was starting to feel like an honest to goodness Eastern Conference Finals preview, but then Kevin Durant got hurt. KD was playing at an MVP-caliber level so there is no way to hand wave away his extended absence with an MCL sprain. But they are also still a team that has just two losses since Nov. 25. Kyrie Irving is only making headlines for his exceptional play and Nic Claxton is a defensive force. The Celtics, meanwhile, remain the top team in the East, though their offense has come back down to Earth a bit. Jayson Tatum is at +400 to win MVP (fourth best odds on DraftKings), and the Celtics field perhaps the deepest team in the NBA.
The Luka Show continues in the nightcap with the Dallas Mavericks taking on the Los Angeles Lakers, who just had their five-game winning streak snapped Monday by the Denver Nuggets and have had two full days to stew on it. LeBron missed the game against the Nuggets with a sore ankle, but if he’s feeling better and well-rested, it could be quite the late-night battle between James and Doncic.
Boston Celtics vs. Brooklyn Nets
When: 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York
Odds: Nets +3
Boston Celtics (30-12)
Marcus Smart, Derrick White, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford
Brooklyn Nets (27-13)
Kyrie Irving, Joe Harris, Royce O’Neale, Ben Simmons, Nic Claxton
Dallas Mavericks vs. Los Angeles Lakers
When: 10 p.m. ET
Where: Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles, California
Odds: Lakers +2.5
Dallas Mavericks (23-19)
Luka Doncic, Spencer Dinwiddie, Tim Hardaway, Christian Wood, Dwight Powell
Los Angeles Lakers (19-22)
Dennis Schroder, Patrick Beverly, LeBron James, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Thomas Bryant
I am strangely feeling pretty confident in the Los Angeles Lakers, and DraftKings is giving LA 2.5 points. The game might be close, but I’d give the advantage to LA. You can also get a LeBron triple-double at +1300.
I’m a little surprised the Nets are only three-point dogs against the Celtics in the team’s first game without KD. Joe Harris is replacing him in the starting lineup and has been a shell of himself. Irving can score, I suppose, but who else can possibly deliver even a third of what KD provided? And the Celtics can throw all the defenders Irving’s way to make his life miserable. This feels like blowout territory to me.