Jayson Tatum celebrates

Apr 25, 2022; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) reacts from the bench during the fourth quarter of game four of the first round of the 2022 NBA playoffs against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center. The Celtics defeated the Nets 116-112 to win the best of seven series 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

  • The Boston Celtics completed a sweep of the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night
  • Boston is now +150 favorites to win the Eastern Conference at Caesars Sportsbook
  • Are the Cs set to return to the NBA Finals?

Some had the Celtics as an underdog in the first round. Boston was facing a Brooklyn team long thought of as a title favorite – the Nets’ Eastern Conference odds remained remarkably short despite a season of dysfunction and injuries. Even those more confident in the Celtics envisaged a deep series.

Instead, Boston became the first team to book its place in the second round of the postseason after completing a sweep of the Nets on Monday night. They have been a sensational two-way team throughout 2022, but this performance is a real marker in what appears to be a wide-open race for the 2022 NBA title.

The Cs are +150 favorites to represent the East in the Finals for the first time since 2010.

NBA Eastern Conference Odds

Team Odds
Boston Celtics +150
Milwaukee Bucks +275
Miami Heat +275
Philadelphia 76ers +550
Toronto Raptors +6000
Atlanta Hawks +25000
Chicago Bulls +25000

Odds as of Apr 26th at Caesars Sportsbook

Stifling Defense from Boston

Facing the owners of the best defense in 2022 by 3.5 points per 100 possessions, Brooklyn knew they were up against an elite defensive group. What the Celtics did in the first round was particularly special, however, nullifying the threat posed by Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving for four games. Durant had 39 in Game 4, but it took him 31 shots to do so. After an explosive Game 1, Irving was ineffective throughout.

Robert Williams’ return from injury has only improved the Celtics on the defensive end. Aside from a handful of Payton Pritchard minutes, there are no weak links on defense. This is a team which knows its identity and plays hard on every single possession.

Ime Udoka has the personnel to switch up looks whenever he sees fit. It’s a roster loaded with switchability, but the one-on-one defense was sensational throughout the series, too. Jayson Tatum, who controversially fouled out in Game 4, was particularly impressive when matched up with Kevin Durant. Al Horford deserves a mention too – he’s looked like a far younger version of himself in this postseason.

Celtics Are Legitimate Title Contenders

Not only is their place in the next round confirmed, but it’s really hard to argue against the Celtics as East favorites. While the Bucks can see off the Bulls without Khris Middleton, they are at a considerable disadvantage if he misses any games in the second round, which looks likely given the return date reported a few days ago.

The Cs had a 12.7 net rating after the turn of the year, far clear of any other team in the league. Ime Udoka’s team have been this good for a while now. Tatum has taken a meaningful step up as a two-way force to the point where he’s in the same category as the East’s other superstars in Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid.

Playing the Bucks in the second round rather than the Conference Finals could prove to be beneficial given Middleton’s status. Boston will deservedly be favored in a series against the Heat. The Sixers are barely a factor in this conversation at the moment, and are at real threat of becoming the first team in NBA history to blow a 3-0 lead.

The 2022 version of the Boston Celtics has been the best team in the NBA — they are going to take some stopping in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

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