The Celtics once again visit the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center as they look to avoid an 0-2 hole in their first round series. The Nets are 9-2 all time vs the Celtics in the playoffs. They have also won 8 straight playoff games against the Celtics. The Nets earned a 3-0 season series sweep of the Celtics, which was only their 2nd season sweep of the Celtics all time. The Nets and the Sixers were the only Eastern Conference teams to sweep the Celtics this season.
The Nets won Game One 104-93. In front of a sellout crowd of 14,391 hostile Nets fans, the Celtics started off strong. They led 21-16 after one quarter and built a 12-point lead in the second quarter. They led 53-47, at the half. Brooklyn opened the second half on an 18-4 run and led by as many as 17 points. The Celtics cut the lead to 3 but just couldn’t pull ahead.
Robert Williams was questionable going into Game 1 but was able to play. He came off the bench, with Tristan Thompson getting the start. He played almost 23 minutes and finished with 11 points, 9 rebounds and a Celtics record 9 blocks. He is not on the injury list as I write this and so I expect him to be able to play in this game as well. I’m thinking that he will come off the bench once again.
Jaylen Brown is the only players listed on the Celtics injury list at this time. For the Nets, Chris Chiozza was listed on their injury list for the first game and was on their inactive list. He is not on the injury list at this time going into game 2 so he may be cleared to play. Only Spencer Dinwiddie is listed as out with the ACL tear.
Probable Celtics Starters
Robert Williams III
Jaylen Brown (wrist) out
Probable Nets Starters
Spencer Dinwiddie (knee) out
Jayson Tatum vs Kevin Durant
The 3 key matchups from the first game are once again the key matchups for this game. Durant scored 32 points, but they were not very efficient as he shot just 40% from the field and 12.5% from beyond the arc. Jayson Tatum struggled in Game 1 with 22 points on just 30% shooting. The Celtics need him to be better than that in this game. Both players are good defenders and so it may not be easy for either player.
Kemba Walker vs Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving had 29 points on 55% shooting but he shot just 25% from beyond the arc. He got quite a few of his points driving to the basket, however. He is capable of putting up a lot of points and also seems to try harder against the Celtics and will likely do so in this game as well. Kemba struggled, shooting just 31.3% from the field, and it would have been worse except for a couple of 3s after the game was already out of reach. The Celtics need Kemba to step up and have a big game if they hope to stay with the Nets.
Marcus Smart vs James Harden
Harden finished Game 1 with 21 points, but like the other two, he was not efficient. He host 38.5% from the floor and 25% from beyond the arc. Marcus Smart had a good game with 17 points on 46.2% shooting from the field and 37.5% from beyond the arc. The Celtics will need him to hit shots when he is open and not force them. They also need him to be a playmaker if his shots aren’t falling.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense will always be the key to winning. The Celtics upped their defensive intensity in the first game, holding Brooklyn to 104 points on 41.7% shooting from the field and 23.5% from beyond the arc. The Nets were 1st in the league, shooting 49.4% from the field and 2nd in 3 point percentage with 39.2% during the regular season. The Celtics must continue to play tough defense both inside and on the perimeter and even increase their defensive intensity in this game.
Rebound - Along with defense, rebounding is a key to winning. You have to have the ball to score and one way to get the ball is to grab rebounds. Much of rebounding is effort and the Celtics need to put out the extra effort to beat the Nets to the rebounds. In Game 1, the Nets out-rebounded the Celtics 50-40. The Celtics need to increase their effort and intensity on the boards. They can’t let the Nets out work them on the boards again.
Run and Move the Ball - The Celtics need to run on every possession and try to get easy baskets before the Nets can set up their defense. The Nets play with a 100.3 pace while the Celtics play with a 98.9 pace. The Celtics need to pick up their pace and play faster. They also need to keep the ball moving and find the open man. The Celtics had 13 assists in the first half and led at the half. They had just 6 assists in the second half and lost that half. They have to move the ball and also keep moving without the ball to try to get open shots.
Be Aggressive - A team that plays hard can many times beat teams that have more talent. The Celtics need to be the more aggressive team in diving for loose balls and in going to the basket, especially if the outside shots aren’t falling. They have to be more aggressive on defense and grabbing rebounds. They have to be the team that plays harder and the team that wants it more. They have to overcome the Nets’ talent with extra effort.
Bench Play - The Nets have a veteran bench that has been here before. The Celtics have a very young bench with many who are expected to contribute getting their first taste of the playoffs. In Game 1, six Celtics reserves contributed 25 points and 17 rebounds. Just four Nets contributed 11 points and 17 rebounds. The Celtics bench was led by 11 points, 9 rebounds and 9 blocks from Timelord. The Celtics need to get more from their bench in this game also.
Road Game - With the fans returning to the arenas, playing on the road once again becomes a bigger x-factor. The Nets had a sell out crowd of 14,391 very loud and very hostile fans in the stands for Game 1 and will likely have a sell out once again in Game 2. Young players especially can be affected by playing on the road. The Celtics need to keep their focus and not allow the distractions of the road and a hostile crowd to keep them from concentrating on playing their best.
Coaching - The Celtics are a huge underdog in this game. Just as in the first game, coaching has to be an x-factor. In the playoffs, coaches have to make adjustments between games and find ways to counter the other team’s game plan. Can Brad pull a rabbit out of his hat and find a way to give the Celtics an advantage?
Officiating - Just as defense will always be a key to the game, officiating can always be an x-factor. Will they call the game tight or will they let them play? Will they favor the home team? Will they be fair and call it even? The Celtics have to adjust to however the officials are calling the game and not lose their focus while complaining about calls because even in a well called game, there will be a few missed calls.