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GAME ONE! Nets begin their playoff journey against the Celtics in primetime

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LA Clippers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

I want you to put all your windows down. Zone out. Buckle up. Let’s go...

We’re finally here. It’s been a fascinating season for the Brooklyn Nets and they enter the postseason as the second seed in the Eastern Conference. They closed out the regular season by beating up on the Cleveland Cavaliers. They’ve been off since Sunday and come into this one well rested.

The opponent today will be the Boston Celtics. It’s been an incredibly disappointing season for Brad Stevens’ bunch, but they hope they can go on a run. They made it here after beating the Washington Wizards in the play in game on Tuesday night.

Where to follow the game

ABC and YES Network on TV. WFAN on radio. We’re on primetime so the party’s getting started after 8 PM.

Injuries

Spencer Dinwiddie is out. Chris Chiozza is back and available after sitting out with a hand injury. Landry Shamet is probable with an ankle issue. Joe Harris has been out for the past week with a hip injury, but he'll be back. Everyone else is here. Let's go.

Jaylen Brown is out for the season with a wrist injury. Robert Williams had to leave the play in game due to a toe injury. He'll be out there but won't be at 100 percent.

The game

In the regular season, Brooklyn won game one on Christmas, two in March, and three in April.

It’s playoff time and more people will be in the building. Governor Andrew Cuomo raised the attendance limits and Barclays will be rocking with 13,000 expected. This is the first playoff basketball game in NYC since the Nets lost to the 76ers in 2019.

I'll be at Barclays to watch in person, so I'm hoping everyone there is loud as hell and ready to have a good time. It’s been a long time coming.

Last time we saw the Nets, this happened:

Hell yeah.

Where do you wanna start on the narrative train? Let’s go with the biggest one. All eyes will be on Kyrie Irving going against his former team. Irving was a good Celtic but the ending wasn’t pretty and Celtics fans are still pissed at him for [INSERT REASON HERE]. He worked the Celtics in each matchup this season and is entering this postseason following the best regular season of his career. He’s impossible to handle on a regular day, and now that the stakes are ratcheting up, he’ll look to put on a show and help put Boston in the ground. He’ll see his replacement at point guard, Kemba Walker. Walker had been beset by injuries this year

What assignment will Marcus Smart get? Chances are he’ll be matched up with James Harden. Smart is Boston’s best defender and he’s developed into enough of a threat from three point range that you can’t just leave him alone. But he’ll have to work overtime on defense to slow down the Nets attack. Harden is back from his hamstring and got some regular season reps to shake off some rust. With him back, he'll do the work of creating great looks for his teammates. Initially, I was going to write that maybe the Nets will monitor his minutes. However, Steve Nash said there's no restrictions so all systems are a go. Watch out, world.

A lot of responsibility will fall on the shoulders of Tristan Thompson. Thompson was a key contributor on that 2016 Cavs team so he has plenty of experience on the big stage. He hasn’t been all that great this season so he’ll have to control the boards for Brad Stevens and friends.

The Nets big rotation will mainly feature Blake Griffin and Nicolas Claxton. Griffin has had a checkered playoff history and his last three trips to the postseason (2016, 2017, and 2019) all ended with injury. Now that he’s a role player and not expected to take on All Star responsibilities, the hope is he can continue his excellent tenure in Brooklyn and maintain his health. For Claxton, this is his playoff debut. Is he ready?

Yeah, I think he’s ready.

Player to watch: Jayson Tatum

Without Brown, everything falls on Tatum’s shoulders. He's off to a great start as his 50 point game helped get the Celtics here. Tatum is Boston's best player and the person most important for them to pull off the upset. He can score on all three levels and he will have to play 40+ minutes every night.

The last time Kevin Durant was in the playoffs, he had to remind everyone just who the hell he was. Of course, his playoff run ended in injury but he’s all the way back and ready to bring the thunder. He'll be the initial matchup on Tatum and recently, it looks as if his defense has picked up a great deal. My colleague Alec Sturm has more on that here. The Nets defense has been a cause for concern among fans and writers alike, so if KD is able to anchor Brooklyn's defense and get them playing at an elite level, they will be impossible to handle.

From the Vault

Last time the Nets saw the Celtics in the playoffs, this happened

More reading: Celtics Blog