Celtics Cruise in First Round Sweep of Nets

Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics eliminates Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets
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The Boston Celtics completed a clean sweep of the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night, taking game 4 in Brooklyn by a score of 116-112. All four Celtics wins were decided by 7 points or less, and Boston took game 1 by a narrow 1-point margin. But the Nets played from behind for most of the series and were overmatched. 

“A lot of stuff that may factor into why we lose, but they were just a better team,” Kevin Durant said after the Nets’ season-ending loss. 

Celtics Cruise in First Round Sweep of Nets

And the Most Skilled Duo is…

There was talk going into this series about Durant and Kyrie Irving being the most skilled duo in the NBA. If we’re considering the body of work they’ve both amassed during their entire careers, there’s a strong argument there. But they weren’t even the best duo in this playoff series. 

The Celtics duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown outscored Durant and Irving in each game other than game 1 of the series. Tatum was the best player on the court all series, showing those who didn’t watch a lot of Celtics basketball this season why he was firmly in the MVP conversation. 

Defense Wins Championships

The Celtics’ league-leading defense was on display in this series, despite playing without Robert Williams for the first two games. Their versatility allowed them to switch on everything and forced Durant and Kyrie into contested shots. Tatum and Brown combined for 17 steals over the 4 games, and Marcus Smart showed what made him the NBA’s defensive player of the year

The Nets simply had no answer for the Celtics’ defensive prowess. 

Size Mattered in Celtics’ Sweep of Nets

The Celtics’ size and length predictably posed a challenge for the Nets. Boston won the rebound battle every game of the series.  

Celtics coach Ime Udoka has multiple bigs on his roster who can stretch the floor and defend. In Williams’ absence in game 1, veteran Al Horford stepped up, logging 20 points and 15 rebounds in 41 minutes. Daniel Theis and Grant Williams played meaningful minutes all series long, each finding their stroke from deep on open threes when the Nets’ defense collapsed on Tatum in the lane. Even [Robert] Williams had an impact on the game in the 14 minutes he played in games 3 and 4 off the bench. 

The Nets’ bigs, on the other hand, got crushed upfront. Andre Drummond barely played in the second half of the series after getting destroyed on pick and rolls and failing to get back in transition. Blake Griffin lumbered around, made a few hustle plays, and even knocked down a couple 3’s, but otherwise had little impact on the game. Nets coach Steve Nash turned to Nic Claxton at the 5 to try and fight through screens and have some more speed up front, but his free throw shooting negated any positive value he brought. 

When pressed for answers during an in-game interview in game 4, Nash even admitted being overmatched and struggled to find the right lineups because the Nets bigs can’t stretch the floor. 

The Better Team Won

Unlike the Celtics, the Nets came into the playoffs lacking a team identity and depth. It’s rare to see an NBA team all of a sudden click and find their groove in the playoffs. Instead, the Nets did what they have done all year, underperforming against better opponents. Any chance the Nets had in this series rested upon Durant and Kyrie’s ability to take over the game. The Celtics kept them in check. 

TNT announcer and former NBA coach Stan Van Gundy quirked during the game 3 broadcast, “this isn’t a pickup game”. The Nets were foolish to think their lack of continuity in the regular season could translate into postseason success. 

The Celtics were the better team all season. They had home-court advantage in this series. Yet, were only slight favorites to beat the Nets because of the upside of Durant and Irving. The outcome here offers an important lesson: Basketball is a team sport. 

The Boston Celtics were the better team all year, and as Durant said, the better team won this series. 

They now await the winner of the Bucks and Bulls. 

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