Time for scoreboard watching ... or its more modern iteration, Twitter.
The Wizards, who closed the season on the rise, and the Celtics, who were going in the opposite direction, face off in Boston at 9 p.m. tonight on TNT, the winner heading to Barclays Center on May 22 for the opening round of the NBA playoffs.
The Nets, meanwhile, are on an extended home leave, as it were, sticking around Brooklyn and environs for nearly two weeks, having last traveled in the early morning hours of May 12. With home court advantage in the first round, the Nets won’t travel again until May 25, after the second game of the first round. No team in the East has that long of a stretch sleeping in their own beds.
More importantly, they are healthy or as healthy as they’ve been since mid-February, the last time the “Big Three” played together before Saturday’s game vs. Chicago. Joe Harris has a bit of a hip strain that caused him to miss the last three games of the season but Steve Nash expects him to be ready by Game 1. Chris Chiozza remains out with a fractured third metatarsal and Spencer Dinwiddie with a partially torn ACL.
“It was great. Big goal for us this year was to try and be as healthy as possible by the end of the year, and to keep everyone on the same page and excited about what we’re doing. So mission accomplished there,” Nash said over the weekend. “We have a week to prepare, and the level is going to go up and we got to rise to the occasion and be ready to go.”
While Nash and his team made health their priority as the regular season came down to crunchtime, everyone now admits seeding mattered ... a lot.
“That’s the goal — obviously to win games and have a good seeding and have home-court and all that. But health is the most important thing,” said Blake Griffin who moved into the starting lineup at season’s end. “It’s great that everybody will be ready to go. Now we just have our work cut out for us in terms of preparing and executing.”
“It’s obviously good to have everybody healthy and guys being in rhythm at this point. But we know how important each possession is in the playoffs,” Kevin Durant added. “That’s one thing we can use and hang our hats on, is knowing that. We understand that intensity of each possession. It’s on us to go out there and execute.”
Nash said he and his assistant coaches will be consulting with the team’s scouting apparatus this week once they know who they’ll face. For a lot of reasons, Boston would seem the preferred opponent. Racked by injury, including the most recent that ended Jaylen Brown’s season, the Celtics have disappointed all year long. A preseason favorite for a big move up, they stumbled into the play-in tournament, losing five of their last six.
Then, there’s the aesthetics of a Boston-Brooklyn match-up with Kyrie Irving finally facing the boo-birds of Southie et al. Irving missed both games at TD Garden last season with injuries (although some including ESPN’s Kendrick Perkins suggested he was “scared” to return.) In their one trip to Beantown earlier this season, the Garden was devoid of fans.
As Brian Lewis writes Tuesday. “It’s not personal; it’s strictly business.”
A Nets win in a Celtics series would also go a long way towards expunging the curse of the 2013 trade with Boston that left the Nets bereft of draft picks or stars. (Although some might suggest the curse ended the day the Nets hired Sean Marks.)
Washington, on the other hand, is on a roll, having won 17 of their last 23, making them one of the East’s hottest teams. It would also make for great match-ups — although not on the level of Irving vs. the city of Boston. Russell Westbrook, fresh off breaking the record for career triple-doubles, would be playing against Kevin Durant, his ex-teammate from the great Thunder teams of a decade ago. And Bradley Beal, although hurt, has a “thing” for the Nets. Moreover, Washington beat the Nets two out of three times this season, both losses heartbreakers.
No greater expert than the aforementioned Perkins, a Thunder teammate of both KD and Russ, thinks a Nets-Wizards series would be serious.
“The Nets are going to gentlemen sweep either one of those teams,” said Perkins. “But having Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal go against the Brooklyn Nets that would be must-see TV. Russ plays with that tenacity, he’s so ferocious. When I think of Russ, he’s so intimidating that he reminds me of Mike Tyson.
“He may not been the greatest boxer of all time, but he was the most ferocious. When Russ steps on the floor, whether people admit it or not, he’s ferocious.”
We’ll know everything we need to know by about 11:30 p.m. From then through Saturday night, it’ll all be practice and punditry.
- NBA playoffs will determine whether Nets made right call - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Nets would have their way with Celtics in dream playoff matchup - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Nets have ‘earned’ status as NBA playoff villains - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Nets as healthy as they’ve been all season as they begin preparations for the playoffs - Greg Logan - Newsday
- Blake Griffin has fit in seamlessly with Nets with his selfless play - Greg Logan - Newsday
- NBA predictions unplugged: Anonymous scout, coach and exec pick 2021’s first-round winners - Josh Robbins & Sam Amick - The Athletic NBA
- BROOKLYN NETS SHIFT INTO PLAYOFF MODE - Tom Dowd - Brooklyn Nets