Well, the best roster in the NBA finally looked unbeatable Tuesday night against the Boston Celtics. When the Brooklyn Big 3 is firing on all cylinders, there is not much for any team to do. It is especially the case against a struggling Celtics team who instantly looked to be no match for the Nets. The game started with both teams hitting shots, but then as the Celtics started missing, the Nets did not. This led to an early large lead for Brooklyn and they never looked back.
One of the major storylines of this game, and ultimately the series as a whole, is the three-point discrepancy between the teams. Both the Celtics and Nets heavily rely on the three-point shot for their offense. Throughout the regular season, both teams ranked in the top half of the league for three-point attempts. This style of offense rolls into the playoffs with a mindset of riding-or-dying from behind the arc. Tuesday night’s results was a stark contrast in this category.
The Boston Celtics shot 35.3% from three on 34 shots. In the first half alone, the Celtics went only 3 for 12 for a whopping 25% from behind the arc. Conversely, the Nets shot 44.7% on 38 shots the entire game. However, to build their dominate lead after one half, they went 11 for 21. It was astounding to see how quickly this game blew open when the shots were falling for Brooklyn with the complete opposite happening to Boston.
The problem with this Celtics’ offense is their reliance on the three point shot. When the team was rolling against the Nets in Game 1, the three ball was going great for them. They hit everything in that first half, and then flipped the script as they went cold, allowing the Nets to come back for the win.
On Tuesday, they continued to be cold out of the gate because they were settling for isolation three-point attempts. Attempt after attempt in the first half were stagnant possessions. To wit, the Celtics only had 7 assists at halftime.
Kemba takes the ball down, gets a half screen, and then tries to create isolation separation on his own.
In contrast, the Nets had 19 first-half assists. Time and time again, this Celtics team finds themselves in situations where the offense just settles. Boston sees that they are down double digits and the three-point attempts just start firing away.
Brooklyn in this game had everything figured out with ball movement leading to open shots. It was multiple possessions of swinging it around the arc until that open shooter, mainly Joe Harris, took the shot from deep. The Celtics were just continually late on rotations.
Both of these clips just show the Celtics poor defense having players late on everything. The defenders are not where they should be on the switch which makes everyone over rotate leading to an open shooter. Joe Harris preyed on the Celtics sloppy rotations all night sprinting to the corner and waiting for his open three. The run in the first and second quarters blew the game out of the water before halftime. The Nets play at their peak when the ball is flying around.
The biggest challenge for the Celtics is that they are going to have to match points with the Nets for the rest of the series. Tuesday night was a perfect embodiment of the Nets playing perfect, and the Celtics not standing a chance. In Game 1, they had a chance, but the team let it slip away with missed shots down the stretch. Now, an injury to Jayson Tatum will only make this tall task more difficult heading back to Boston for Games 3 and 4. They can live and die by the three, but they need to find a more team-driven way to find those open shots if they stand any chance in matching Brooklyn’s offense.