The superteam is ready to prove itself. They joined a team that was irrelevant in the NBA year in and year out, but suddenly, with the introduction of superstars, they are the dominant force in the league. Throughout the year, the Nets were not satisfied and gathered star after star (ex. James Harden and Blake Griffin) along with criticism because of the unfair team they have created with the help of the attraction created by Kyrie Irving, one of the most skillful players in the game, and Kevin Durant, one of the most efficient shooters in the game. The favorites to win the title are hoping to ease past the round one match up. After all, it’s just the Celtics. If they lose, they will be the laughing stock of the league. The NBA world would have their next target to make fun of because they couldn’t even beat a team that had to make the play-offs through a play-in tournament with 3 of the best players who were trying to win a championship. But realistically, can the Celtics even pose a challenge without Jaylen Brown and with their current game play other than Jasum Tatum’s explosive performance against the Wizards? Let’s rewind the tape on the Brooklyn Nets and the Boston Celtics to gain insight for the round one matchup.
The Boston Celtics came into the season with a strong chance to win the championship. With the continuity between stars like Jaylen Brown and Jason Tatum as well as the amazing job Brad Stevens had done last year, we thought we would see a completely different outcome. But unfortunately, the Celtics were subject to COVID as well as poor play by Kemba Walker throughout the season, and the series of events pinnacled with Jaylen Brown getting injured for the rest of the season. With all that behind now, the Celtics need to depend on Kemba Walker to show up like he did in the play-in game along with Jason Tatum. Even with the shooting performance put on by Kemba and Tatum (who scored 50 points), they only won by 8 and the Celtics were never able to completely ice the game. For the Celtics to even have a shot at getting a game or two, they have to trust that Kemba Walker can play like he did in the play-in tournament and actually step up to be the 2nd star on the team. With the Brooklyn Nets playing poor defense (though improving) throughout the season, it should be easier to score, and thus another and maybe more important challenge is defending the Nets. The Celtics will have to create a game-plan that restricts KD’s letal shooting as well as Kyrie’s handles to have a chance to win the game, but in my opinion, the most important aspect of the game is being able to score in the same pace as the Nets because you can only limit the Nets offense so much.
On the other hand, the Brooklyn Nets have literally no continuity throughout the season. The three stars have only played 8 games together and so we don’t know what we will be getting out of the Nets. On their own, the three stars are amazing. James Harden was in the MVP conversation before he got injured, we already know what KD can do, and Kyrie was dropping defenders on their butts game in and game out. But together, they can only hope they are able to play along with each other and are actually able to work together. But if we take our eyes off the stars, we see that the Nets have fire power along the perimeter including Joe Harris, who is shooting 43% from the three, thus making their offense nearly unstoppable. Harden, when playing, has been dishing out assists left and right as he averages almost 11 assists a game and so his passing ability can really open up the court and allow for easy and open shots. So their real problem is defense. The Nets started off as one of the worst defenses in the history of the league, but with the addition of players like Blake Griffin, they have been able to slowly improve their defense. But the real test is in the play-offs and as we all know, defenses win championships. The Nets need to focus on getting the ball out of Tatum’s hand and force someone else to step up on the Celtics to ensure that Tatum is not able to drop 50 or 60 points on them and steal the game.
At the end of the day, after analyzing the teams and their season, I am almost certain the Nets will win this series without having to go to a game 7. Unless Tatum and Kemba can shine even brighter than they did against the Wizards, I don’t think the Celtics will be able to pull off an upset. In my opinion, the Nets will win the series in 5 games and will soundly defeat the Celtics because of their explosiveness and their improvement on defense as the season progressed. You can’t expect Tatum to drop 50-60 points every game, and without that, I don’t think the Celtics have a shot.
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