Sunday was a big test. For the first time since the embarrassing first-round sweep in the 2022 playoffs, the Brooklyn Nets matched up with the Boston Celtics and fell short once more, losing 103-92 on Sunday.
Boston’s game plan in last year’s playoffs was simple: swarm Kevin Durant on his touches at the top of the key and in the post. That strategy proved to be effective, as Durant had his worst playoff series to date while averaging 26.3 points on just 38.6% from the field and 33.3% from three, along with 6.3 assists to 5.3 turnovers.
The Nets, led by Sean Marks, spent the offseason buffing up the roster with more shooting to surround their star so that teams, like the Celtics, couldn’t help liberally and flood Durant on his halfcourt touches.
And yet on Sunday, when it mattered most, Joe Mazzulla’s squad went back to the game plan from the 2022 playoffs and flocked Durant on his touches with remarkable efficiency. Three of KD’s eight total turnovers came in the fourth quarter, and the Nets had their worst offensive rating of the season against the Celtics.
In this video, I took a look at how the Celtics defended Kevin Durant, why it was effective in the fourth quarter, and how the Nets can get their star better looks going forward.
1:24 Defense in quarters 1-3 - KD got busy against what was mostly single-coverage from the Celtics. He scored 16 of his 31 total points versus this style of defense and repeatedly targeted Boston’s weakest defenders.
2:44 Fourth-quarter defense - Boston switched things up in the fourth and brought back the aggressive double-teams we saw in last year’s playoffs. Durant and the Nets were not able to capitalize, as a lack of movement and poor decision-making tanked Brooklyn’s offense down the stretch.
5:55 Options going forward - Brooklyn needs to diversify Durant’s touches to keep Boston’s defense on its toes. Pindown screens, stagger screens, and even a ‘ram screen’ play that Brooklyn busted out in the third quarter could be great options. The Nets also must encourage movement from the surrounding players to dissuade Boston from swarming KD.