The Boston Celtics have homecourt advantage, the No. 1 defense in the league, an All-Star in Jayson Tatum, a Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Marcus Smart and a stellar No. 2 in Jaylen Brown.
Yet according to Vegas, the Brooklyn Nets are favored over the Celtics in their first round matchup.
So what gives? Are Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving really that far superior than the rest of the Celtics?
Let’s break it down.
Celtics vs. Nets odds
Via DraftKings, here are the odds for the first round matchup between Brooklyn and Boston:
Why The Nets Are Favored Over The Celtics
Simply put, it’s hard to bet against Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
It’s almost unfair that Durant and Irving are on the same team. Both superstar players are future Hall of Famers, NBA champions and know how to elevate their game in the postseason.
They are battle tested, motivated by their No. 7 finish in the East and hungry to win another championship. They are the ultimate clutch players, able to deliver playoff magic in the blink of an eye.
Just look at what they did in Brooklyn’s 115-108 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Play-In Tournament on Tuesday.
Durant finished the game with 25 points, five rebounds, a whopping 11 assists, three blocks and two steals. It was a truly vintage performance from Durant, who once again reminded the basketball world that KD is not nice.
Irving was sensational in his own right. The crafty guard only missed three shots, going 12-of-15 from the field and 3-of-6 from three to finish with a game-leading 34 points. Irving also dished out 12 assists, seemingly always making the right play and expertly operating out of pick and roll situations.
The rest of the Nets did their part to support Irving and Durant. Bruce Brown was like a mini-Draymond Green, playing tough defense and finishing with 18 points. Andre Drummond (16 points, eight rebounds) was the beneficiary of dunk after dunk thanks to the playmaking ability of Durant and Irving. And the same could be said of reserve center Nic Claxton, who chipped in 13 points.
Brooklyn’s win against Cleveland is a great indicator of how potent they can be offensively and locked in they could be on defense.
Boston however, is a much better and deeper than Cleveland. But when you factor in the absence of Celtics center Robert Williams and the reliable brilliance of Durant and Irving, it’s not hard to see why the Nets are favored over the Celtics.
How Vegas handicaps NBA title odds
The Sporting News’ Stephen Noh talked with sports analytics and handicapping experts to find out exactly how odds are set in Vegas.
Here’s what he found out:
The phrase “Vegas thinks” has become extremely common parlance when citing futures odds. But when Las Vegas offers a bet on the Nets winning the championship at 7:1 odds, translated to a 12.5 percent likelihood of happening, that is NOT reflective of what they think will happen. Rather, it’s a reflection of how much betting has occurred on the Nets, and how they would like to direct future bets.
Changing the odds shifts the incentive structure for bettors, allowing books to control how much money comes on each side of a bet.
What makes these Vegas odds even less reliable as a predictor of what is actually going to happen is the people who are placing these bets. Most of the money that is determining the lines is coming from losing recreational bettors who aren’t particularly good at making predictions. The professional bettors who actually have some idea of what will happen generally stay away from futures bets.
To sum it up, when you look at Vegas betting odds for the NBA title, it’s a reflection of where amateur bettors are placing their money. There are very few expert opinions from professional sports bettors that are shaping that number. The same cannot be said for other types of bets like a regular season game between the Magic and Pacers, which is why those lines have much higher predictive power and different handicapping systems than a futures bet.
Celtics vs. Nets schedule, TV channels
Game 1 of the first round matchup between the Celtics and Nets will take place on Sunday, April 17 at 3:30 p.m. ET.
The full schedule and broadcast information for the series hasn’t been released yet.