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What it will take for the Nets to beat the Celtics in their first-round series

The Nets begin their quest for an NBA championship against the Celtics.

Los Angeles Clippers v Brooklyn Nets
Kevin Durant and James Harden of the Brooklyn Nets react during the second half against the LA Clippers at Barclays Center on February 02, 2021 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Nets won 124-120.
Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The No. 2 seed Brooklyn Nets enter their first-round series against the No. 7 seed Boston Celtics favored to lift the 2021 NBA title. With Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving leading the team, the Nets have arguably the best trio of players in the league and will be a tough out in the postseason.

Nets keys to victory

For all of Brooklyn’s star power, Durant, Harden and Irving haven’t played together much this season. Irving’s absences and Harden’s injuries have prevented the Nets from deploying their three stars together; the group has only taken the floor together for eight games. Getting the chemistry right for these three players will be key.

Another weakness for the Nets is defense. Brooklyn is allowing 114.1 points per game and ranks 22nd in defensive rating. The Celtics rank 10th in offensive efficiency and Jayson Tatum can get hot to make it a series. The Nets should have no trouble outscoring Boston, but a defensive tuneup will benefit them down the road.

The most important key for Brooklyn is health. Durant looks to be 100 percent, but Achilles injuries are unpredictable. Harden had to take a break after re-aggravating his hamstring. Irving has a volatile personality and the Nets need him focused on the court. If these three players are healthy, it likely will not matter how Boston performs.

Nets vs. Celtics series odds

Nets: -1430
Celtics: +700

As the line suggests, the Nets are heavy favorites. Boston is missing Jaylen Brown and even with him healthy, the Celtics would be underdogs. Brooklyn is expected to cruise in this series; the Nets will be more focused on specific areas of concern and getting their stars acclimated to each other.

NBA Championship odds

Nets: +250
Celtics: +10000

With Durant, Harden and Irving, it should come as no surprise the Nets are favored to lift the title. The Celtics are long shots at +10000. This series will be about Tatum taking another step forward and Boston’s younger role players getting more playoff experience. For Brooklyn, this is the first chance to get into championship mode.

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