The Brooklyn Nets will kick off their first-round playoff series against the rival Boston Celtics tonight, and even though the Celtics will not have the services of Jaylen Brown, the combination of Brad Stevens on the sideline and Jayson Tatum on the floor could make it tough for the Nets to prevail.
Of course, the Nets are favored in this matchup, as they will be able to lean on the combination of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden to guide them on the offensive end of the floor. Despite that star power, the roster is thin elsewhere, and that could lead to some troubles for Boston.
There is a path to victory for the Celtics, even if they will have to withstand regular broadsides from three of the 15 best players in the league to do so. It involves attacking the Nets in a few key areas that could destabilize Brooklyn if Steve Nash fails to adjust properly.
These three matchups will be key not only in deciding who will win Game 1, but who will take home this series as a whole and by how much.
The Brooklyn Nets must win these 3 battles.
As trite as it may sound, turning the ball over more rarely is a hallmark of a successful team. Brooklyn has taken that message to heart this year, as adjustments on the offensive end have seen them jump up to No. 13 in the league in terms of the fewest average turnovers per game. Boston is close behind at No. 16.
While Durant, Irving, and Harden are all elite at their craft, the tendency to play hero ball and surrender possession is always there, and they will get bitten once or twice per game by this tactic, the key for Brooklyn will be to limit the amount of iso time everyone gets in order to keep the ball moving.
The Nets can’t turn the ball over a bunch.
The Celtics, even without Brown, can hang their hat on perimeter defense, as Marcus Smart will give the Nets plenty of problems. Giving a Celtics offense that is fresh off of Jayson Tatum dropping 50 points would be a foolish strategy from Nash that could lead to some losses.
Nash may not have made it to the Finals, but he’s been a veteran of enough playoff series as a favorite to know that you should never let a team like Boston off of the mat. Playing smart, measured basketball should give the Nets and their hyper-efficient offense more chances to sink Boston’s ship.