Observations from a Celtics-Nets game that probably should have been called by slaughter rule at halftime …
This Nets offense is good Brooklyn showed flashes of its explosiveness in Game 1, using an 18-4 run to open the third quarter to blow the game open. In Game 2, the Nets picked up right where they left off. Joe Harris—remember him?—turned a three-point first quarter lead into a 14-point advantage with 11 points in a two-minute span. A double-digit first quarter lead grew to 24 by halftime and 27 at the end of the third, when Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart started playing what amounted to a nationally televised game of one-on-one.
The Celtics did a solid job defensively in the first two quarters of Game 1. Over the next six—save for some of the garbage time moments in the fourth quarter on Tuesday—they have been shredded. All five starters for Brooklyn finished in double figures on Tuesday, with none cracking the 30-minute mark. The Nets shot 52.3% from the floor and 44.7% from three. This offense, arguably the NBA’s best, is humming.
Can we talk about Kevin Durant’s defense? As brilliant as Durant is offensively—and at 6’10”, 240 pounds with guard skills there is quite literally nothing Durant can’t do on that end of the floor—sometimes we forget that before his Achilles injury Durant was among the best defenders at his position. He put up a Durant-like stat line in Game 2—26-points, eight rebounds, five assists on a tidy 8-12 from the field—but it was his defense that stood out. KD finished the game with four blocks. He helped hold Jayson Tatum to nine points in 21 minutes. He swatted away a Robert Williams baseline jump shot. He handcuffed Kemba Walker on a drive before rejected his fallaway.
Defense—Brooklyn finished the regular season 23rd in defensive efficiency—has been a glaring weakness for the Nets all season. A return to form by Durant will make that weakness a little more manageable.
Can the Celtics do anything to get back in this series? No. They are undermanned with Jaylen Brown out and hopelessly outgunned by the Nets' Big Three. Meanwhile, Tatum had to leave the game in the second half with an eye injury that Brad Stevens described as “pretty swollen.” It’s over. Next question.
So what can we look forward to in Game 3? Kyrie Irving has played in Boston once since his decision to leave the Celtics in free agency in 2019. But he has yet to play in front of Celtics fans. He missed Brooklyn’s games in Boston during the ’19-20 season and his return earlier this year came in an empty building. Anger towards Irving is a little irrational—yes, he did declare his intention to stay in Boston in October, 2018, but he was a free agent and decided to choose his own path—but the anger is real, which could make for a fun environment on Friday, when the TD Garden will increase capacity for the Celtics home playoff opener.
So … there’s that?
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