NEW YORK – So now we know why Celtics did not go out of his way to avoid Nets in the first round, did not kick the season finale away (hey, Milwaukee), did not sweat the results of play-in, as a high school student does SAT. Brooklyn had stellar power, but no system. An explosive offense that, as it turns out, had no prayer for the NBA’s most stingy defense.
Boston took game 3 in its first round series against Brooklyn and took a leading 3-0 lead. The first quarter was close. Jayson Tatum got hot for the Celtics. Kyrie Irving and Bruce Brown led the Nights. Both teams shot 50% from the floor. After a back and forth second quarter, Boston went into the locker room up three.
Nets should have stayed there. Two minutes into the third, the Celtics increased the lead to 10. Brooklyn fought back a few times. Brown, the Boston-born guard, scored a team-high 26. Nic Claxton added 13 points and seven rebounds from the bench. But the Nets took hold. Late in the third quarter, Steve Nash deployed Blake Griffin, who had not played a meaningful minute for more than a month. Griffin struck a pair of threes and two free throws in his eight minutes. He was also chased relentlessly to the defensive end and finished his stint with minus-four.
“It’s disappointing,” Steve Nash said. – It is clear that we did not play a good match.
The Celtics are now a win away from promotion and this team looks set to make it through a race. Boston’s defense is suffocating. They forced 21 turnovers on Saturday and scored 37 points from them. Irving finished with 16 points and was missing all of his seven threes. Durant’s final statistical line looks decent – 16 points, eight rebounds, eight assists – but in the third game in a row, Durant looked pedestrian. Midway through the second quarter, he had three field goal attempts. He did not crack double digits until deep inside the third. After attempting 20 free throws in Game 2, Durant did not raise his first attempt until late in the fourth.
“Just a shit game, man,” Durant said. “Worn game.”
What’s wrong? Durant has played in dozens of playoff series in his career. This may be his worst. He made five turnovers in Game 3, the third game in a row he has kicked five or more away. He was surpassed in the first half by Payton Pritchard. Brown attempted eight more shots than him. After failing to make a shot in the second half of Game 2, Durant did not have an official attempt during the last 11 minutes of game 3.
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“I’m just thinking too much, to be honest,” Durant said. “This whole series… the first two games I tried to be too aggressive. A team loads up on me, takes me out of all my actions, I felt like I was trying to force it. My approach to this game was to play out of all. Get into the flow of the offense. Let the ball move and find me… I felt we had a good flow. ”
Some of this is on Durant. He needs to be better. But his coach is not helping. “I don’t think fatigue has set in,” Durant said. OKAY. But Durant played 46 minutes on Saturday. He played 42 in Game 2 and 41 in Game 1. In the last six games of the regular season, Durant played an average of 42. Boston sends waves of physical defenders in Durant, from Tatum to Jaylen Brown to Grant Williams. They consume Durant’s energy. And Nash continues to leave him on the floor.
The biggest mismatch in this series is in the coach box. Ime Udoka dominates. This is Phil Jackson vs. John Calipari. Joe Torre Vs. Grady Little. Bill Parcells Vs. Rich Kotite. It’s been embarrassing. Brooklyn’s offense is a fixed diet of isolations. The movement is minimal. They put screens to create switches, but in those situations, Boston’s defense does not miss a beat. Damage to Ben Simmons and Joe Harris has crippled Brooklyn’s depth, but five minutes of Cam Thomas in the second quarter can be no worse than watching a visibly exhausted Durant fumble through the final minutes.
Nash’s job security was in no doubt when he entered this series. Now it would be a miracle if he survived it.
Boston will survive, will advance, and the question remains – who would you prefer to beat them? “We play aggressively on both sides of the ball,” Brown said. “That’s what we like, that’s what we take pride in.” Tatum broke out of a mini-scoring downturn and scored 39 points in Game 3. Brown (23 points) often looks like the second-best player on the floor. Marcus Smart continues to thrive as a playmaker, and Williams’ physical qualities have made an impact. Robert WilliamsThe Celtics’ defensive anchor, returned after a month-long absence from knee surgery and played 16 pain-free minutes.
“Getting Rob back is huge for our team,” Tatum said. “I’m perhaps Rob’s biggest fan.”
The Nets tried to strike an optimistic tone after the match. “It’s about our character now,” Nash said. “About digging deep and having pride.” Ben Simmons is likely to make his debut in Game 4, but … come on. No team has come back from a 3-0 deficit and Brooklyn does not look to be the first. The Nets looked to be the boogeyman who went into the off-season. The Celtics are a victory from killing it.
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