Welcome to the NBA Playoffs, where the Celtics have their eyes set on raising Banner 18! That alone is worth all our attention, but there’s so much more to this first round series that makes it must see TV (or in person). Narratives, storylines, and history abound.
Here are a few of them.
Last season’s playoffs
Just 11 months ago, these teams were matched up for a first round series. The Celtics stumbled into the playoffs with a .500 record and were lucky to escape the first round with a gentleman’s sweep. The Nets had their 3 stars available and clicking on all cylinders and it looked like the beginning of a mini-dynasty in Brooklyn.
Fast forward to this season and the two teams have taken very different paths to this version of the first round matchup. Obviously the Celtics have turned things around and are fully realizing Ime Udoka’s vision of defense and ball movement. Also, Jaylen Brown is available for this year’s series. The Nets, on the other hand, traded away James Harden in exchange for a yet unseen Ben Simmons and they have struggled with ...player absences all season long.
With that said, the Nets still have Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving and that duo have the ability to go supernova in any particular game or series. So they are a team that needs to be respected. The Celtics need not fear any team with the way they’ve been playing in 2022, but they shouldn’t sleep on any team either.
The whole Kyrie thing
I have a tremendous amount of fatigue on this subject, so I’ll keep this brief. Kyrie Irving used to play for the Celtics. Things happened. Now he plays for the Nets. The. End. Do we really need to discuss this further? Moving on.
Recruiting Kevin Durant
Many moons ago, the Celtics put on the full court press to recruit Kevin Durant as a free agent. An all star cast of Danny Ainge, Tom Brady(!), Brad Stevens, Marcus Smart, and Kelly Olynyk did their best sales pitch, but couldn’t convince him to pass up a chance at playing for championships on the west coast. If not for the cap spike, we’ll always wonder how much of a sliding doors moment that was.
Durant and Tatum winning Gold for Team USA
Speaking of Durant, both he and Jayson Tatum won Gold together in the Olympics this past summer. After setting a record for most points scored, Durant took the time to single out Tatum as next up.
Kevin Durant on setting the US Olympic record for points scored - "This guy next to me will be the next one." The guy next to him is Jayson Tatum.— Mark Murphy (@Murf56) July 31, 2021
There has been an element of “big brother, little brother” between Durant and Tatum, but increasingly Jayson is taking on the attitude that he’s just as good as anyone in the league.
Ime Udoka’s time on the Nets staff
It is easy to forget, but it is worth noting that Udoka was on Steve Nash’s bench in last year’s playoffs. If anyone understands how the Nets are going to gameplan for the Celtics, it would be the guy who is now in charge of the Celtics’ gameplan. Again, a lot of things have changed since last year, but this is just an interesting note to remember.
Bruce Brown’s comments
As you’ve probably heard by now, Bruce Brown gave the Celtics some good bulletin board material and Kevin Durant was quick to try to snuff that out, calling it “caffeine pride talking.” The Celtics have been flat-out the best defensive team in the league in 2022 and while it hurts to not have Robert Williams III, they still have Al Horford and Daniel Theis in the frontcourt that are very capable of executing the gameplan.
Which injured player will show up first?
Speaking of Robert Williams III, there’s growing optimism that we could see him before the end of the first round. There are similar rumblings from the Brooklyn side on Ben Simmons. Either player could impact the outcome of a game or two which could have an impact on the series result. So that is certainly a story to keep track of (stay tuned on CelticsBlog for more!).
Did I forget any narratives? Feel free to add your own in the comments below.