After a tough start to the season and a 25-25 record the #2 Boston Celtics went from a team looking on the outside of the Playoff picture, to the team playing their best basketball this time of year. They showed they didn’t fear any team they may face coming out of the “Play-In” tournament as they won on the final day of the regular season instead of losing to fall down the standings which would give them this first round matchup with Brooklyn.
They put it on full display against the #7 seeded Brooklyn Nets for the world to see. They swept the Nets 4-0 in epic fashion after a 116-112 win on Monday night. This shouldn’t be a surprise to the Celtics because in their last eight matches against the Nets, they have won the last seven including this one.
Since the All-Star break the Boston Celtics have had the best record in the league (17-5) and showed why in this series. They had the No.1 rated defense heading into these playoffs and they showed why. They made things difficult for the fourth leading scorer in the regular season Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving all series.
Tatum led Boston with 29 despite fouling out with 2:48 left in the fourth. “We knew what we were facing. Their record didn’t show how talented they were, but we believed in ourselves.”
Jaylen Brown came into this series averaging 22.7 ppg in the first three games, finished with his average and tied with a team-high eight rebounds (Daniel Theis). Smart had a double-double with 20 points and 11 assist. Reserve Grant Williams, who got most of the responsibility when he checked in the game to guard Durant chipped in with 14 points (12 in the 1st half) and veteran Al Horford had 13 points.
“It’s funny to us, because we don’t duck and dodge anybody,” Smart said. “We knew what we were going to come in here and do.”
The Nets finally got a big game out of Durant who averaged just 22.0/ppg in the first three games and finished with a game-high 39 points, but just 13-31 from the field. The Celtics were physical with Durant all series not letting him get comfortable or get into any type of rhythm. It seems Durant was looking for the refs to bail him out throughout this series.
They forced him into 21 total turnovers.
“A lot of stuff that may factor into why we lose, but they were just a better team,” Durant said.
Seth Curry, who came over to Brooklyn in a mid-season trade with the Philadelphia Sixers had 23 points (5-9 3-pt).
This series had a lot of hostility before it got started because Irving who was once a Celtic from 2017-2019 opted sign with the Nets after that 2019 season and received a lot of backlash from the Boston fans. During Games 1 & 2 in Boston they let him know about it by booing and yelling things at him, that he didn’t like. He also missed a majority of his teams home games due to the fact that he wasn’t vaccinated and to many that could have been the reason why this Nets team was outside of the playoff picture for so long.
“We all felt it. I felt like I was letting the team down at a point when I wasn’t able to play. Now we turn the page and look forward to what we are building as a franchise,” Irving said.
Head coach Steve Nash got good minutes from backup bigman Nic Claxton who had 13 points and was active defensively and on the glass, but was just 1-11 from the free-throw line. Coach Nash was not able to get anything all season from newly acquired Ben Simmons who came over from Philadelphia along with Curry and Andre Drummond before the trade deadline. Simmons never suited for Brooklyn as he dealt with a “back issue” that kept him out for the entire season and playoffs.
“I think Ben has addressed that there is a mental component with what he’s going through, but how much and where he’s at with that is not for me to speak about,” coach Nash said. “But as far as an organization, we’re really pushing to support Ben in any way we can to help him improve physically and get back on the court, and then the mental side of that is part and parcel. They’re not separate, they’re not something that we don’t want to deal with. We want to help if he needs help in any aspect of his life and his game.”
The Boston Celtics will now await the winner of the Milwaukee/Chicago Series (3-1 MIL) but whoever they face, you’re going to have to beat this team four times because they don’t beat themselves and they play defense, whether the ball goes in on offense or not.
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