The Celtics look to take a 2-0 lead in the series as they host the Brooklyn Nets for Game 2 of the first round series. The Celtics won the first game in spectacular fashion as Jayson Tatum hit the game winner at the buzzer to pull out the last second win. The final 40 seconds were a clinic in teamwork on both ends of the court for the Celtics.
After Jaylen Brown went strong to the basket for a layup to cut the Nets’ lead to 1, Marcus Smart and Al Horford played some incredible defense on Kyrie Irving who seemed determined to take the shot but had to pass off to Kevin Durant when he couldn’t get a shot off. KD was blanketed on defense by Jayson Tatum and missed the shot. Al Horford pulled down the rebound and without a time out, the Celtics ran up the court. Jaylen Brown found Marcus Smart on the perimeter and Marcus faked the 3 and had 2 Nets run past him. He then found a streaking Tatum who spun into a layup as time ran out as Kyrie and KD just watched.
The Celtics had a week off between the end of the regular season and the first game of the playoffs while the Nets had played in a play-in game on Tuesday and had 4 days off between games. The Celtics started off slowly, whether because of first game jitters or because they were rusty. Al Horford hit 3 of 4 shots in the first quarter but the rest of the starters were only 2-9 in the quarter. Their defense was good in the quarter, forcing 7 turnovers, but they only scored 4 points off of those turnovers.
The Celtics were able to slow Kevin Durant down by playing very physical defense on him, which had him struggling on both ends of the court. He scored 23 points but shot just 9-24 from the field and 1-5 from beyond the arc. He has vowed to come back in Game 2 and be much better. I’m sure the Nets will adjust and negate some of the effect the Celtics defense had on him in Game 1 and so the Celtics need to be ready for it.
On the other hand, Kyrie Irving went off for 39 points, with 18 of those coming in the 4th quarter. The game was tied at 61 at the half. In the 3rd quarter, the Celtics pulled out to a 15 point lead and led by 11 going into the 4th quarter. The Celtics scored just 19 points in the 4th quarter, one more point than Kyrie Irving scored all by himself. The Celtics have to adjust and find a way to slow Kyrie down in this game, along with keeping Durant from having a big game.
For the Nets, Joe Harris (ankle) and Ben Simmons (ankle) are once again on the injured list. Reports are that Simmons is playing 4 on 4 and may make his return in Game 3 or Game 4. I’m not sure if he will be that much of a factor after not playing since last year’s playoffs but it seems as though they plan to find out. There haven’t been any new reports on Robert Williams III (knee), who is the only player on the Celtics injury list. He was seen at the practice facility but whether he will return in this series or not is still up in the air.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Daniel Theis
Robert Williams (knee) out
Probable Nets Starters
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Seth Curry
SF: Kevin Durant
PF: Bruce Brown
C: Andre Drummond
Joe Harris (ankle) out
Ben Simmons (back) out
Jayson Tatum vs Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant is one of the most talented offensive players in the league and he is also a good defender. However, in Game 1, neither of those traits were evident. He finished the game with 23 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 6 turnover. He shot just 37.5% from the field and 20% from beyond the arc. Those are far away from his regular season averages of 51.8% from the field and 38.3% from beyond the arc. Durant has acknowledged that he did not play well in Game 1 and the Celtics should expect him to come into this game looking to play better on both ends of the court.
Marcus Smart vs Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving had a big game for the Nets and almost single handedly brought them back in the 4th quarter and almost got the win. He finished with 39 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals. He shot 60% from the field and 60% from beyond the arc. Eighteen of his points were in the 4th quarter when the Nets came back from the 11 point deficit to begin the quarter to lead by 3 with 40 seconds to go. The Celtics need to do a better job of guarding Kyrie and slow him down while also not letting up on Durant.
Jaylen Brown vs Seth Curry
Curry didn’t have a very good Game 1. He started off well with a couple of early baskets and was passing very well but he seemed to fade as the game went on. He finished with 9 points, 2 rebounds, and 6 assists. He shot 42.9% from the field and 25% from beyond the arc. He shot 49.3% from the field and 46.8% from beyond the arc in the regular season. He is capable of getting hot and having a big game and so the Celtics can’t dismiss him because of his Game 1 performance.
Keys to the Game
Defense - As always, defense will be the biggest key to winning and especially so in the playoffs. The Celtics were able to slow down Durant by playing very physical defense on him, but they didn’t play their normal lock down defense that had them tops in the league in the regular season. They allowed the Nets to shoot 53.8% from the field and 458% from beyond the arc for the game and they allowed Kyrie Irving to shoot 60% from both the field and on 3’s. They lost some of their defensive ability when Robert Williams got injured but they still have enough good defenders to play better defense than they did in Game 1. The Celtics likely won’t out-shoot the Nets and so they must play tough team defense if they hope to win.
Rebound - Second to defense, rebounding is an important key to winning. The Celtics averaged 46.1 rebounds per game (5th) while the Nets averaged 44.4 rebounds per game (13th) in the regular season. In Game 1, the Celtics out-rebounded the Nets 43-29. Much of rebounding is effort and the Celtics need to put out that same effort to win the rebounding battle in this game. The Celtics must come into the game determined to out-work the Nets and to hustle for every rebound.
Stay Focused and Play Hard 48 Minutes- The Celtics struggled on offense to start the game and again in the 4th quarter. I lost count of how many layups the Celtics missed in this game. In the regular season, the Celtics were 2nd in the league at finishing within 5 feet of the basket (66.4%) but in Game 1 they missed at least 9 shots at the basket. They have to focus on finishing and not rush their shots. They have to start off stronger and they can’t let up like they did in the 4th quarter, allowing the Nets to outscore them 29-19. They have to play harder than the Nets from the opening tip until the final buzzer and they have to stay focused on both ends of the court.
Bench Contributions - The focus for both teams will be on the stars but the role players can make a big difference in the game. In Game 1, Goran Dragic came off the bench to put up 14 points (54.5%) 5 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal. Nic Claxton also made a difference for them off the bench with 13 points (75%), 8 rebounds and 3 blocks. For the Celtics Grant Williams had 7 points, 2 rebounds and 1 assist while Derrick White had 7 points 3 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. Patty Mills and Payton Pritchard each had 3 points on 1-1 from beyond the arc. The Celtics need more from their reserves and they need to limit the impact that the Nets’ reserves have.
No Let Down - The Celtics are coming off a big win that had to energize them and leave them on somewhat of a high. Then there was the DPOY presentation for Marcus Smart. The Celtics need to carry the momentum from that win in Game 1 into this game and come out even stronger and harder and more physical then they did in Game 1. They can’t let down their guard even a little because the Nets are going to be motivated to play harder in this game and so the Celtics must match their effort and their aggressiveness.
Home Game - The Celtics are once again at home for Game 2 but the Nets are a very good road team. They tied for 2nd most road wins this season with a 24-17 record away from Barclays Center. Their 116.2 road offensive rating was 3rd highest all time. The Celtics have played well at home with a 28-13 record at the TD Garden in the regular season. The Garden crowd was loud and brought energy for Game 1. The Celtics need to feed off the energy of the crowd and hopefully, the Nets will be distracted by being on the road and by the very hostile crowd.
Coaching - Coaching becomes a factor in the playoffs and becomes like a game of chess. Each coach must make adjustments to what they saw in the previous game or games and then make adjustments to the adjustments. Steve Nash will likely make some adjustments to the Celtics defense on Kevin Durant and so Ime Udoka will need to adjust the defense to counter Nash’s adjustments. Ime may have a slight advantage in that he was an assistant coach for the Nets last season and knows most of their players and knows a lot of Nash’s tendencies.
Officiating - The officiating can always be an x-factor. In Game 1, they called 18 fouls between the two teams and there didn’t seem to be any flow to the game. After calling it super tight in the first half and then only slightly less so in the third quarter, they seemed to swallow their whistles down the stretch. They called 24 fouls on each team for the game. Some referees call the game tight and others let them play. Some favor the home team and others call it evenly. Some refs just seem to have an agenda that doesn’t fit the play on the court and some refs like those that called the first game seem to be inconsistent from quarter to quarter. The Celtics have to play through however the refs call the game, whether it is tight or they let them play. They can’t allow bad calls or no calls to take away their focus on the game.
According to our friends at DraftKings, the Celtics are 3.5-point favorites heading into Game 2 against the Nets tonight. After an opener when the stars played to a near stalemate (Durant and Irving combined for 62 points while Tatum and Brown scored 54), it’s no surprise that the spread is that close, even with Boston boasting a home court advantage that clearly had an effect on the game.
Boston won Game 1 on the thinnest of margins, but the box score tells a different story. Both teams hit 42 shots, including 19-of-24 from the free throw line. The Nets connected on 11 threes, the Celtics 12. Brooklyn had 16 turnovers and committed 26 fouls. Boston had 14 and 24 respectively. That’s the snapshot of a one-point game decided at the buzzer. However, there are advantages that Boston should and will lean into for the rest of the first round.
On Sunday, the Celtics were bigger, longer, and more athletic. With head coach Steve Nash shrinking his rotation to feature Irving, Brown, Dragic, Mills, and Curry, that made the Nets small for large portions of the game when three of those players were on the floor. Those 6’3 and under combos were left to defend two-big front courts and back courts manned by Smart, White, and Brown with defenders to target on the floor. That gave the Celtics a distinct advantage on the offensive glass (14 to 5) and shot attempts (89 to 78). It’s debatable what team has more talent, but if it’s Boston with the deficit, they made up for it with an 18 to 11 advantage in second chance points and a monster 56-32 differential in points in the paint.
All odds are accurate at the time and date of publishing.
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