Just hours before the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics were set to tip off in Game 1 of their opening round playoff matchup, Brad Stevens was brutally honest about his team’s chances of upsetting the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed.
While everybody knew Boston didn’t stand a chance against Brooklyn, especially without star Jaylen Brown, who was lost for the season just ahead of the playoffs due to wrist surgery, it would’ve been nice to see Stevens express an ounce of confidence in his players.
In Stevens’ defense (not really), he’s been proven right through the opening two games, as the Nets’ Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving have had their way with one of the league’s worst defenses during the regular season.
At times, it doesn’t even seem like the superstar trio is giving their full effort, which speaks volumes considering the Nets have won the first two games by a combined 33 points. In any event, the lopsided series has opened up plenty of opportunities for Brooklyn’s role players.
With that thought fresh in mind, why don’t we shower some praise on behalf of these non-Big 3 performers who’ve showed up vs the Celtics thus far?
Here are the Nets’ three most impressive non-Big 3 players vs the Celtics.
3. Jeff Green
We know what you’re thinking: how could a player who’s seventh on the Nets in scoring against Boston qualify for this list? Well, if you’ve watched Brooklyn this season, you know Jeff Green impacts games in ways that are a lot more important than scoring.
More importantly, the Nets don’t need Green to score. We’d even argue he’s the glue that keeps their average defense together. The 34-year-old vet is tasked with the opposing team’s best player each night and he’s done an immaculate job against Jayson Tatum.
For context, Tatum, who left Game 2 after being poked in the eye by Durant, has been limited to just 15.5 points on 28.1% shooting and 28.6% on threes. To put those numbers into perspective, Tatum averaged 26.4 points on .459/.386/.868 shooting splits during the regular season.
Nets’ Jeff Green has picked off right where he left off in the regular season.
Nets fans should closely monitor Green’s status for Game 3, as he was forced from Tuesday night’s game due to a bruised left foot. Given that contest was decided pretty early, let’s hope Green not returning was more precautionary than anything else.
Bottom line? Green has logged a +22 (!) in his 39 minutes over the first two games, and in both contests he was tasked with leading the second unit off the bench, so it’s not like he was playing alongside Durant, Harden and Irving in most of his minutes.
Consider the mic dropped.