What Celtics fans should watch for in Nets-Cavs play-in matchup


The Boston Celtics' playoff opponent will officially be determined Tuesday night. Is there any chance it's the Cleveland Cavaliers?

The No. 8 seed Cavs will visit the Barclays Center to face the No. 7 seed Brooklyn Nets at 7 p.m. ET in the first matchup of the NBA's Eastern Conference play-in tournament.

The winner moves on to face the No. 2 seed Celtics in Round 1. The loser hosts the winner of the 9-10 matchup (Atlanta vs. Charlotte) for the chance to face the No. 1 seed Miami Heat in the first round.

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Many expect the Nets to take care of business and potentially make a deep playoff run on the backs of their two superstars, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. But are we dismissing Cleveland too quickly?

Here's a quick primer on Tuesday's Nets-Cavs play-in game and what Celtics fans should know about their two potential opponents:

When and how to watch Nets vs. Cavs

Date, time: Tuesday, April 12, at 7 p.m. ET

TV channel: TNT

Live stream: TNTdrama.com

Who is favored to win Nets vs. Cavs?

Point spread: Nets -8.5 (via PointsBet)

Moneyline: Nets -451; Cavs +350 (via PointsBet)

Shocker: The Nets are heavily-favored by nearly nine points. Why? For starters, Brooklyn just beat Cleveland 118-107 last Friday and is 3-1 against the Cavs this season.

The Cavs also will be without All-Star Jarrett Allen, who has missed the team's last 18 games with a sprained finger. They have a very talented point guard in All-Star Darius Garland and a promising young big man in 7-foot rookie Evan Mobley, but if you have Durant and Irving on your team in a win-or-go-home contest, the odds are in your favor.

How the Cavs can pull off the upset

Brooklyn's Achilles heel is its defense: Steve Nash's squad allowed 112.1 points per game this season (18th in the NBA) and doesn't always give 100% effort on the defensive end. While Irving is a dazzling offensive player, he's a subpar defender whom Garland must exploit to give Cleveland a shot in this one.

The Nets also aren't particularly deep, as sharpshooter Seth Curry (14.9 points per game) is the only player outside Durant and Irving averaging more than 13 points per game. (Ben Simmons has already been ruled out for Tuesday's game.) If Durant or Irving have an off night, the Cavs could claw their way to victory.

How the Nets can take care of business

Simple: Let Durant and Irving do their thing. These are two of the best postseason players in NBA history with proven track records of shining on the big stage. (Durant has averaged 29.5 points per game over 151 playoff contests.) They're also motivated to silence the doubters who believe their regular-season record is an indication they're not long for the playoffs.

Durant probably could win this game by himself, but if Irving gives Brooklyn at least 20 points and Curry knocks down a couple threes, the Nets will be traveling to Boston for Game 1 next Sunday.

Who should the Celtics want to face?

Credit to the C's for their fearless mindset. They're ready to take on anyone, anywhere, any time. But they should be thrilled by a Cavs upset here.

It's not too often that the No. 7 seed has the best player on the floor in a matchup with the No. 2 seed, but that'd be the case in Celtics-Nets, as Durant's star power outshines even that of Jayson Tatum. With Robert Williams out due to injury, Boston would be on major upset alert against Brooklyn as long as Durant and Irving are on the floor.

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If the Celtics draw Cleveland, they'd face a team that went 7-11 down the stretch without Allen in the lineup and has very little postseason experience outside the 33-year-old Kevin Love.

So, if you have any maroon and gold attire, put it on Tuesday night and root for a Cavs upset in Brooklyn.

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