The series shifts back to Brooklyn as the Nets try to close out the series with a win in Game 5. The Nets won the first game 104-93 and the second game 130-108, with both games in front of a full crowd in Brooklyn. The Celtics won the third game 125-119 in Boston with a 25% crowd providing boos for Kyrie Irving and cheers for their Celtics.
For Game 4, the Celtics had a full capacity crowd. However, with Kemba Walker, Robert Williams and Jaylen Brown out, they simply did not have enough to outscore the Nets or to keep them from scoring. As with Game 3, Kyrie was booed every time he touched the ball but he shook that off to finish with 39 points, 11 rebounds and 2 assists. Durant added 42 points while Harden finished with 23 points and 18 assists. Jayson Tatum once again led the Celtics with 40 points and they got contributions from several of the young guys, but it just wasn’t enough to overcome Brooklyn’s 3 stars.
Kemba Walker missed Game 4 with a bone bruise on his knee and he is listed as doubtful for this game. Robert Williams left game 3 with an ankle sprain and also missed game 4. He is also listed as doubtful for this game. Jaylen Brown remains out after having wrist surgery. For Game 4 Marcus Smart moved to the point and Romeo Langford started at shooting guard. I’m going to guess that Brad will go with that starting lineup again if Kemba can’t go in this game.
For the Nets, Spencer Dinwiddie remains out with an ACL tear that has kept him out much of the season. Jeff Green left Game 3 with a foot injury and will miss this game with a strained plantar fascia. Alize Johnson will miss his second straight game, but since he wasn’t part of the regular rotation, and so likely won’t be missed in this game.
Probable Celtics Starters
Jaylen Brown (wrist) out
Kemba Walker (knee) doubtful
Robert Williams III (ankle) doubtful
Probable Nets Starters
Spencer Dinwiddie (knee) out
Jeff Green (foot) out
Alize Johnson (ankle) out
Jayson Tatum vs Kevin Durant
Once again, Jayson Tatum vs Kevin Durant will be the key matchup. Durant is proving to be pretty much unstoppable and finished Game 4 with 42 points. Jayson Tatum followed up his 50 points in Game 3 with 40 points in Game 4. The Nets doubled Tatum on most possessions in Game 4 but the Celtics can’t really double Durant since the Nets have so many scoring threats.
Marcus Smart vs Kyrie Irving
Irving overcame the boos of the Garden crowd to put up 39 points, 11 rebounds and 2 assists in Game 4. Although Kemba hasn’t scored big in this series, they missed his leadership and playmaking. Kemba definitely hates the Celtics and their fans and will likely be doing his best in this game to put them away.
Romeo Langford vs James Harden
Harden finished Game 4 with 23 points, 5 rebounds and 18 assists. Langford finished Game 4 with 9 points, 1 rebound and 1 assist. It is possible that Brad could go with Nesmith here. Harden is a tough matchup for either player, but this series gives both players some valuable experience that should help them going into next season.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense will always be the key to winning. The Celtics struggled to get stops in Game 4 and allowed the Nets to score 141 points on 58% shooting from the field and 59% shooting from beyond the arc. The Celtics must try to up their defensive intensity if they have any hope of winning this game. Especially short handed, the Celtics can’t win a shoot out and so must concentrate on getting stops.
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. The Celtics lost the 3 games that the Nets out-rebounded them but won the only game that they out-rebounded the Nets. The Celtics must increase their effort on the boards.
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 Celtics need to pick up their pace and play faster. They also need to keep the ball moving and find the open man. 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 but don’t play as hard. 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.
Short Handed on the Road - The Celtics will likely be short handed once again in this game with both Kemba Walker and Robert Williams listed as doubtful for this game. They are also on the road in front of what is certain to be a hostile crowd. By necessity, the Celtics will be playing their younger players bigger minutes and often, young players struggle on the road.
Close Out Game - This is a close out game for the Nets and close out games can be very tough for the team trying to close out the series. The Celtics can only hope that the Nets will struggle somewhat under the pressure to end the series. However, just as young players struggle more on the road, veteran players, like the Nets have, are much better under pressure.
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.