We wanted to preview the first round of the playoffs with a series of roundtables with the staff. The third question posed to the group was: Make your series prediction (wins for each team) and briefly explain why.
Adam Spinella: Celtics 4-2. Nets come in and steal one of the first two in Boston, play them even in Brooklyn, but the C’s win games 5 and 6. The Nets have enough firepower individually to win a game or two despite the best efforts the Celtics give. But Boston’s overall defensive effort, combined with the lack of depth on Brooklyn’s roster, will win games in which Durant and Irving aren’t going nuclear.
Will Bjarnar: Boston defeated Brooklyn in three of their four matchups this season, the lone loss coming back in November. That might as well have not been this season if you ask me. In each of their three wins, the Celtics scored 126 points or more while giving up just 91, 106, and 120. Sure, Kyrie Irving was absent for a few of those matchups, but the point is that the Celtics had no problem pouring it on against Brooklyn’s porous defense. They shouldn’t have a problem doing so in this series either.
Here’s the deal: for whatever reason, casual NBA viewers watched the Nets beat the Cavaliers on Tuesday and suddenly walked away thinking the Celtics had no chance of downing the Nets in a seven-game series. Me? I saw a team that allowed multiple double-digit leads slip away despite the fact that their inferior opponent couldn’t knock down a wide-open shot to save its life. I saw a team that folded when its stars sat, save Bruce Brown’s heroic effort from the high post. I saw a team led by Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving appear to dominate a game, only to win by seven and nearly let it get away from them down the stretch against a team led by two studs under the age of 23.
Durant and Irving are elite and terrifying. The Celtics, though, are a more complete team, and are more formidable across the board. Celtics in 6. Honestly, I think it could be 5 (though saying that out loud makes me cringe with fear).
Trevor Hass: Celtics in 7. This series has all the makings of a classic. It seems unwise to assume the Celtics will cruise just because they’ve had a stellar few months. It also seems unwise to assume the Nets will win just because they have Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Chances are it’ll go the distance, and Jayson Tatum will have the chance to prove he’s THE dude in a series full of dudes. He won’t squander it.
Daniel Poarch: I’m taking the Celtics in six games. It’s true that these Brooklyn Nets are not your normal seven-seed – Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are simply too talented a duo to completely count out, and they’re perfectly capable of winning a playoff game on their own if they’re both hot at the same time. But beyond those two, I just don’t think the Nets have enough of a supporting cast, especially on the defensive end.
Their play-in win over the Cavaliers showed off the case against them: Durant and Irving both had brilliant performances, both individually and in creating for their teammates, and yet they found themselves in a single-digit game late in the fourth quarter. They struggled when Durant sat, and after winning the first quarter 40-20, the Cavs outscored them 88-75 the rest of the way. The Celtics are a completely different ballgame from the injured Cavs, and though Durant and Irving will always give them a chance, I ultimately don’t think the Nets have enough to make it out of this series.
Michael Pearce: Celtics in five. I understand the Brooklyn fear, but I do not agree with it. Two stars are always scary, and Brooklyn does have some very solid ancillary pieces (I’ve been a fan of Bruce Brown since he was in my home state of Michigan with the Pistons). However, the Celtics are a different beast. As Will said, the only Celtics loss to Brooklyn came in November, which is impossible to hold against the Celtics now with how incredible they’ve become. This team is legit, and its defense has far too little holes for me to be panicking over the Nets, a team that while talented, has far too many question marks to take down the NBA’s top defense with a superstar and all star.
Keith Smith: Celtics in six. I think Boston is very ready this time around. And I think enough of the same guys who got stomped (literally and figuratively) last year are still around. They’re going to want to erase that from their memories. Plus, Boston plays on both ends of the floor. Brooklyn really only plays on offense. That balance from the Celtics will be the difference.
Bobby Manning: Celtics in six. The Nets’ perimeter defense should allow Boston to function offensively at the high level it has late in the season. Jayson Tatum will her to go downhill at will and pass out of double teams. Jaylen Brown will find space as a finisher. Andre Drummond needs to get out of the post to guard Al Horford’s pick-and-pop. There’s so much trouble here for Brooklyn, Seth Curry’s injury and Ben Simmons’ uncertain status included, and only so much Durant and Irving can clean up with scoring. Don’t forget Boston has operated at a higher level offensively than Brooklyn since the trade deadline by nearly five points per 100 possessions, and that’s not to mention the defensive gap between these two groups. All the turmoil and unease around that team doesn’t project to translate well to a playoff turnaround. The Williams injury is a real game changer for how Boston can defend though. Not to go Bruce Brown, but Daniel Theis is a guy the Nets can attack in switches. That danger and inevitable crunch times in many games could push this series 6-7 games. This almost feels like a passing of the torch in the East in terms of sentiment about these two franchises. As Ime Udoka said on Wednesday, there’s no underdog mentality in Boston for this.
Mike Dynon: Celtics in 6. I’m normally cautious about making playoff predictions, but I feel good about this series because the Celtics themselves are abundantly confident. They didn’t dodge the Nets like other teams did. Instead, they essentially told their opponents, “We don’t worry about you — you have to worry about us.” And they said that despite Rob Williams not being healthy,
We can’t ignore that Kevin Durant is probably the best player in the world. However, Jayson Tatum is ready to make a statement that he’s the next KD. This series is his opportunity to prove it.
Jeff Clark: Celtics in 6. I want to have the guts to say Celtics in 5, but I have too much respect for Kevin Durant.