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Game 2 was a microcosm of Celtics regular season

Team resilience fortified by adversity. That’s been the recipe all year for Boston.

Boston Celtics vs Brooklyn Nets Photo by Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images

Did anyone else get some big picture deja-vu from Game 2? The Boston Celtics started off slow, picked up steam, and then ran away with the game — much like they did over the course of the regular season. Let’s break it down.

Bad Start

At the beginning of the year, the Celtics had no offensive flow and they needed time to adjust to Ime Udoka’s switch-heavy defense. At the start of Game 2, the Celtics were flummoxed on offense and the defense seemed out of sorts as well. Credit the Nets with making some adjustments, namely running more people to put a body on Tatum and Brown (basically the same strategy we used against Durant). Defensively, Brooklyn’s role players got off to a hot start (perhaps due in part to the extra attention that Durant and Irving were getting).

Theoretically the Celtics could have stayed afloat early in the game if Tatum could simply hit a few more shots. Much like the start of the year, he was just missing shots. (Analysis!) Add in some sloppy turnovers by multiple folks and you’ve got the makings of a 17-point deficit.

That sinking feeling of “oh great, now we could be facing 1-1 headed back to Brooklyn” is pretty similar to that early season of “here we go again on the treadmill of mediocrity” vibe. Thankfully things changed. Or rather, “shifted.”

The Energy Shifted

There was no exact turning point in the season you could point to and say, “everything changed after that.” Just like in this game there was no “here we go, now everything is different.”

To me, this speaks to coaching principles being repeated and the players slowly but surely picking up what Ime and the staff were preaching and applying it to their play.

Late in the 1st quarter, Tatum got the ball on the block and found himself surrounded by Nets with two double teaming him and the other 3 within a couple steps of him. He passes out of the double (trusting his teammates) and saw the ball immediately moved through two more teammates before finding Grant Williams in the corner for one of his 3 pointers.

That is the kind of play that unlocked this team’s offensive potential this season. And the upshot is that those kinds of plays eventually open things up for Tatum and Brown to create with more space. Or sometimes they can benefit from the ball coming back to them in a more advantageous position than if they had squared up in isolation and tried to beat their man one-on-one.

The defense settled down into a rhythm as well, taking things away from Durant and Irving and not overreacting to the secondary players who found their level over the course of the game.

Rolling Downhill

At some point in the 3rd quarter, the Celtics just turned it up a notch and just took off. It is extremely difficult to keep up elite defensive focus for the entire game, but this team has shown that they are capable of hitting that level for 4-5 minutes and completely shut down anything the Nets were trying to do.

When that’s happening, easy transition opportunities lead to more buckets on the other end. Given that confidence boost, everything flows a little easier in offensive sets. The game slows down and everyone can see what the next right pass is in slow motion. Then, when you need them the most, Tatum and Brown came up with multiple huge baskets that broke the Brooklyn defense.

Again, this is like the post-All-Star break portion of the season where the boulder started rolling downhill and ended up crushing everything in its path.

There seems to be something special about this team. We’re only two games into the playoffs, but it has been a very encouraging start. Struggles will happen, but you can see how quickly this team has learned to overcome them and execute fixes on the fly that lead to winning plays.

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