With their win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday night, the Boston Celtics clinched the two seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. That means they’ll take on the winner of the seven/eight Play-In game between the Brooklyn Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers, a task that most teams chose to avoid.
The Milwaukee Bucks benched their star players on Sunday while the Celtics chose not to. And while Milwaukee was likely just trying to get their guys some rest, the move could also be seen as their way of dodging a potential matchup with the Nets in the first round.
Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are two of the best isolation scorers in the NBA, and most predicted the Nets to win the East at the beginning of the season. However, the James Harden drama, New York City’s vaccine mandates, and a plethora of injuries led to a disappointing season. Now, they face an uphill battle heading into the postseason.
But Boston is not scared of the Nets. According to Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Payton Pritchard, they’re willing to face anybody in any round of the playoffs. However, according to Skip Bayless of ESPN, the Celtics shouldn’t be so confident if the Nets were to make it out of the Play-In.
Bayless Picks Nets Over Celtics in First Round
On the April 11 edition of Undisputed, Bayless and Shannon Sharpe discussed a potential matchup between the Celtics and Nets. And while Bayless said that he likes what Boston has done this season, he also said that he would pick Brooklyn to win a series between the two:
I love Ime. I love what they’ve done. But in the end, if Durant and Kyrie Irving come out and say, ‘it’s time,’ if they say that they’ll go down. The Celtics will fall.
Boston went 3-1 against Brooklyn during the regular season, but two of those wins came when Durant and Irving were inactive. The two teams split the other two games, with the Celtics winning the most recent standoff. Jayson Tatum dropped 54 points to outduel Durant and his 37.
The Celtics have been the most dominant team in the league since the start of the new year, and while the Nets’ injuries provide some semblance of an excuse, their defense has been terrible regardless. Despite that, Bayless is still taking Brooklyn’s superstars over Boston’s.
Sharpe Picks Celtics Over Nets in First Round
On the flip side, Sharpe has a different point of view. While Bayless pointed at Brooklyn’s stars for his reasoning, Sharpe directed his attention to Boston’s mindset heading into their final game of the season:
The thing that I love most about the Celtics, the Celtics could have done this matchup. They could have sat their starters, and said, well let somebody else win. They said, no, no, no, no, no, we want the two spot. And we feel comfortable that we can beat anybody in the East. So we ain’t ducking anybody. That tells me something about the makeup.
As mentioned, the Celtics played all of their starters against the Grizzlies. They played to win, despite knowing that a potential matchup with the Nets was in their future if they did come out on top. Sharpe believes that Boston’s unwavering confidence in themselves overshadows the Nets’ star duo.
With all of that in mind, it’s not even a guarantee that the Celtics will play Brooklyn in the first round. The Nets have to get by the Cavaliers first. But if Boston does end up taking on Brooklyn, it’s sure to be an entertaining series.