The Boston Celtics Game 1 victory over the Brooklyn Nets featured a lot of good things. It also featured some bad and there was one part of the game that was really ugly. With that in mind, here’s the Good, the Bad and the Ugly from Boston’s perspective in Game 1.
Defending Kevin Durant
CelticsBlog’s Adam Spinella did a wonderful job breaking down Boston’s approach against both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. We’re going to highlight part of that here, with a focus on Boston being physical with Durant right from the jump.
This turnover was charged to Irving, and that’s fair, but it was the way Boston defended Durant that caused the turnover. The play starts with Grant Williams essentially shoving Durant into his screen. That’s a trick Boston uses a lot. It keeps the player from slipping the screen and helps the switching player get to his new man quicker. After that, Jaylen Brown keeps up the physical defense by staying connected to Durant to force the deflection:
On the Nets next trip, it’s more physical defense. But you can see where Williams being a really smart defender shows up. As soon as Durant starts his motion to pick up the ball, Williams backs off a half-step, while poking at the ball. That threw Durant off his rhythm and allowed Marcus Smart to scoop up the loose ball:
Expect Brooklyn to counter this by trying to get Durant the ball more in space in Game 2. It will require them getting into their actions a little earlier, but if Durant is able to play less in crowds, it will expose the Celtics being physical and can give Durant the space he needs to work.
Jayson Tatum’s passing
As part of our Game 1 coverage on CelticsBlog, Adam Taylor took a look at How Jayson Tatum dealt with Brooklyn’s defense. Like the above, we want to highlight something Tatum did well. For months now, Tatum has dealt with double-teams and traps like a seasoned veteran. They no longer throw him off, nor cause the whole offense to bog down.
This is super simple, but shows how far Tatum has come. He draws Kyrie Irving on the switch here. In the past, Tatum either backs this out to make a hundred dribbles before shooting over Irving, or he tries to bully his way into the paint. Now, Tatum doesn’t back out, doesn’t force a drive nor doe he shoot the leaner with Kevin Durant pinching in to help. Instead, Tatum makes the simple pass to Marcus Smart for a three:
Look for Brooklyn to change things up and throw a lot of different looks at Tatum in Game 2. Straight doubles, late doubles, traps, stunts, even more straight 1-on-1 coverage. The Nets will do what they can to get Tatum out of finding a rhythm with repetitive coverages.
Hitting the offensive glass
The Celtics were all over the offensive boards in Game 1. Boston racked up 14 offensive boards, with Al Horford and Daniel Theis combining for 10 of them.
Part of the Celtics success came by attacking against the smaller Nets. On this play, Seth Curry is trying to hold off Daniel Theis. The next closest Net is Kyrie Irving, because the bigger Brooklyn players are all around the arc. That opens things up for Theis to grab the board and draw the foul:
This is a similar type of set up. Both Kevin Durant and Nicolas Claxton are stuck to the arc, while Bruce Brown doesn’t want to leave his man in the corner. With only Curry on him and Irving the only other player around. Horford immediately goes to the glass:
There’s not really an easy fix here for the Nets. They are who they are at this point. They play a lot of lineups that feature either two small guards and a small wing or three guards. Boston needs to continue to be aggressive about getting to the offensive boards.
The bench discrepancy
This one really popped out when Brooklyn went on their run to start the fourth quarter. It’s not entirely the fault of the bench, but they were starkly out played by their counterparts during this stretch, as well as for the game as a whole.
Derrick White bounced back to make several big plays late, but he looked a little lost early on. This included passing up a couple of good looks, while also missing chances to hit Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown against a mismatch. Payton Pritchard got caught a few times against Kyrie Irving and Goran Dragic and didn’t make much of an impact. And Grant Williams was part of the group that had a hard time opening the final period, as well as struggling to find his shooting range throughout the game.
For the Nets, Dragic and Nicolas Claxton both had monster games off the bench. It’s not all on the Celtics reserves to contain them, but they do need to be better in Game 2. That’s one way Boston can help create and maintain a little distance throughout the game, especially in moments when Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving sit.
The Celtics pace in the first half, third quarter and end of the fourth quarter was terrific. Boston made a concerted effort to get the ball and go. They ran off made baskets, made free throws and missed free throws. Several times, the Celtics caught the Nets watching while they ran to the rim.
At the end of the third quarter, then early in the fourth quarter when things tightened up, Boston stopped running. Everything slowed down. That made it easier for the Nets to get matched up, set coverages and then execute their schemes. Look for the Celtics to keep pushing throughout the game, as that allows them to take advantage of a porous Brooklyn transition defense.
Defending Kyrie Irving late
Kyrie Irving made a lot of well-contested shots. But he also made a few that were way too easy. Maybe it was the Celtics being tired late, or blown communication, but there were a handful of breakdowns that left Irving with great looks.
This is bad defense by Jayson Tatum, but it was also great spacing by the Nets. No one can help easily here. But Daniel Theis cheating over and giving up a three-point look to someone like Goran Dragic is better than letting Irving get a layup:
This one was just the Celtics not being on the same page. Marcus Smart is shading over to help against a possible drive by Kevin Durant. He’s doing that because he expects Tatum to slide up and pick up Irving. Boston will concede a corner three to Bruce Brown at this point in the game. But Tatum is reluctant, or too tired, to leave the strongside corner. That leaves Irving, who was on fire, with as open of a look as he had all game:
Look for Boston to tighten things up considerably on plays like the above. They’ll be better at directing the ball to players they want to have it, especially late in the clock. And, for what’s it worth, they did a great job of this on the game’s final defensive stand, as they let Irving dribble to nowhere before he had to pitch it out to Durant for a bailout.
Let’s hope for everyone’s sake that there isn’t a repeat of Game 1 in Game 2 as far as the officiating goes.
There were 18 total fouls in the first quarter. Nine on each team. For a really fun, back-and-forth game, there was no flow early on, because the officials were constantly stopping play.
In the second quarter, each team committed six more fouls. Yes, it was a physical game, especially from Boston, but 30 foul calls in 24 minutes is ridiculous.
Then, there were 11 more total calls in the third quarter. Essentially, one foul per minute.
To make things worse, the refs then swallowed their whistles down the stretch in the fourth quarter. No more ticky-tac stuff. No more brush fouls were called. There was a lot of contact both ways throughout the fourth quarter.
If refs are going to call everything super tight, that’s fine. It makes for a slow, bad and almost unwatchable game, but the players will adjust. But when you call everything for three-plus quarters and then nothing in the final few minutes, the players have a right to be frustrated.
Here’s to hoping this gets cleaned up for everyone involved for Game 2.