The Brooklyn Nets come into their first-round matchup overcoming the Cleveland Cavaliers. Now, facing the Boston Celtics, what do the Nets have to do to ensure themselves a bid for the second round?
After Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving combined for 59 points against Irving’s former Cavaliers, they and the Nets will now go on to face a team that found their season’s success after the all-star break, the Celtics.
With potential Defensive Player of the Year candidate Marcus Smart and MVP candidate Jayson Tatum, the Celtics will pose a huge problem for the Nets. The Nets will be facing the league’s top defense, a team that gives up just 43.4% of opponent field goals, and 33.9% behind the arc. Even with the potential of getting 30 from both Durant and Irving, there will have to be much more than the typical star power the Nets rely on to overcome the vigrous Celtic defense.
Smart, a smart (no pun intended) defender, is able to switch and cause offenses to completely rethink their offensive strategy when he’s on the floor. It’s a mind-blowing idea that a 6’4 point guard is able to have that type of impact on a game, but Smart is the ultimate tool to stop Irving if there is any.
Meanwhile, even with the injured Robert Williams III, who the Celtics expect to sit out this series, they still have a great presence in the paint with Al Horford, and Daniel Theis (even if Durant sees him as a mismatch).
But Irving and Durant will be able to throw down as many points as possible with the ball in their hands. The question is, can necssary role players like Bruce Brown, Seth Curry, and Goran Dragic create their own offense, or carry off of Durant and Irving, to add points to the board?
With a team identity like the Nets have, which is an offensive one, the team will need to rely on every player on the team to free up space for their two stars and be able to shift some of the load off of them to combat the defensive-minded Celtics.
Also, this isn’t to discredit the potential matchup problems the Nets will have against Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The two are the most lethal wing duo the NBA currently has, on both ends of the court. Without Ben Simmons, the Nets need, and the need is stressed, to find a player that could hinder the offensive impact the two could generate. Could it be Brown? Could Durant trade in some offensive firepower for defensive savvy? Or will it be an all-out, four-quarter shootout every single game between the two teams?
Overall, the Celtics will be a strenuous opponent for the Nets. The biggest question still remains, can the Durant and Irving duo prove to be enough for a second round series?