After an impressive win over the Cleveland Cavaliers last night, the Brooklyn Nets are now the seventh seed in the eastern conference. This Sunday, the Boston Celtics and Nets will face off in the first round. And although the Celtics are the second seed—it feels like the Nets are the favorites to win this series.
Rightfully so, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have been absolutely BALLING since the departure of James Harden. Speculation of Ben Simmons making his debut this season is a firm possibility. Celtics fans certainly have a right to be concerned, but here is what the Celtics need to do to advance to the next round.
Marcus Smart defending Kyrie Irving well
To make it clear—nobody can stop Kyrie Irving one on one. However, Marcus Smart is a former teammate of Irving and knows some of his moves. That’s not to say he can prevent Irving from making nasty crossovers and dazzling finishes around the basket. But the Celtics will need to find a way to slow him down. If they can do that, then Durant dropping 40, which is expected, Nets will then have to look for help off their bench and from role players. And with the C’s being the best defensive team in the league since the second half of the season, this is possible.
Force the Nets Role players to score
Sure, the Brooklyn Nets are seventh in the conference because of injuries, COVID restrictions, and drama. However, what really hurts the Nets is their lack of defense and lack of help other than KD and Irving. Seth Curry was a big addition, especially with Joe Harris out for the season. But the bench of the Nets are either old or just don’t possess the talent. Irving and Durant will score, but the Celtics will need to try to force the ball out of their hands as much as possible.
Jayson Tatum reaching a new level
It appears like Jayson Tatum ascends to a new level each year. He’s used to playoff basketball, he doesn’t shy away from big moments, and he’s poised in crunch time. But this is a different animal he’ll be facing in the first round. Two superstars in the NBA is going against him, he’ll need to consistently perform every single night in order to win the series.
Help off the bench
Although the Celtics have certainly ascended to one of the top teams in the NBA late in the season, their second unit is underwhelming. Coach Ime Udoka has found a way to make their bench players efficient, he’ll most likely only play 8 players. With that, Payton Pritchard will need to make shots and defend. Grant Williams will be key in this series. In replacement of R. Williams, Grant will need to rebound proficiently, make open shots, and score.
Robert Williams III to come back
Celtics fans may not want to hear this but Time Lord was a huge factor in the Celtics defense. And as he recovers from his meniscus tear, the Celtics will need to hold it together until his return. Williams was the communicator, the rebounder, the energizer, the high flyer and everything in between. Without him, the Celtics chance hinder to the very talented Nets team.