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Nets begin playoff journey in Boston vs. Celtics

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Utah Jazz v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

All the busters we givin’ y’all five seconds to get close to a exit. It’s about to get real ugly in here. Five seconds is up - let’s go!

It’s been a wild journey to get to the playoffs, but here we are. Going into the season, the Brooklyn Nets were expected to be one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference and a favorite for the NBA Championship. Thanks to a mini-series worth of bad breaks, foolishness, and everything in between, they wound up in seventh place in the standings.

They got here after taking care of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first play-in game on Tuesday night at Barclays Center. The road to the NBA Finals won’t be an easy one, but Lord knows this team has dealt with enough difficulties to last a lifetime. Let’s go.

Taking the maiden voyage with the Nets will be the Boston Celtics. Led by former Nets assistant and first year head coach, Ime Udoka, Boston has been one of the best teams in the league since the beginning of 2022 and are hoping to get back to the Eastern Conference Finals and maybe beyond. They’ve been off for a week after locking up the two seed with a win over the Memphis Grizzlies last Sunday night. They’ve been home resting ever since and will look to get this series off to a good start.

Where to follow the game

ABC and YES Network on TV. WFAN on radio. All eyes on us so we’re getting started after 3:30 PM.

Injuries

Joe Harris is out. Ben Simmons is out as well. That’s it.

Robert Williams is out.

The game

In the regular season, Brooklyn took game one in November while Boston snagged games two and three in February and game four in March. Throw that out the window tho.

The odds favor Boston in the series opener, but it’s gonna be tight all the way through.

We’ve got you covered all the way through on the preview. We talked with Jeff Clark of CelticsBlog, I talked with them, and I did a playoff series preview guide here. Get into it!

With Time Lord out for today’s game, the Nets will need Andre Drummond and Nic Claxton to take full advantage and assert their wills on the boards. In their series preview, my guys Matt Brooks and Alec Sturm wrote about the bigs and said:

Dre is a large body who will impose his will on the offensive glass and finish with force under the basket — when he’s not trying to be Magic Johnson on the fast break. Claxton is a nimble body; he can switch proficiently and stick with smaller players on the perimeter, but will sometimes get sent to the weight room down low and struggles to create his own offense.

To me, this series is better suited for Claxton. Drummond will often get burned when deep in drop coverage and doesn’t bring much as a switch defender either.

The Nets will rely on them to hold the for down against the duo of Al Horford and Daniel Theis. They’ve been

Brooklyn often got lax with the ball post All-Star break (26th in turnover rate), so they will need to be disciplined with the ball and make the most out of every possession. Too often, the Nets burned possessions by being sloppy and with every possession being worth its weight in gold, they have to be locked in for all 48 minutes.

Boston’s 3-point defense has been one of the best in the league, and that will be a critical part of tonight’s game. Seth Curry got shut out against the Cavs on Tuesday, but he has been the team’s best deep shooter since coming over from the Philadelphia 76ers and will get his fair share of looks today. Patty Mills has found his shot after a months long slump and if the Nets can play fast and get clean looks from deep, they’ll be able to cash in.

The hometown faithful will give Bruce Brown his fair share of hell this series, but he’ll be ready. Brown has been magnificent for the Nets and allows them to get as weird as possible with lineup construction. When he plays with Clax, the Nets defense turns up a few notches and look for Steve Nash and the coaching staff to have him out there for as long as possible. BB will probably get his fair share of time guarding JB. Jaylen Brown has been his usual solid self this year.

For all the boos Bruce Brown might get, it’ll feel like a walk in the park compared to what’s waiting for Kyrie Irving. We know the story: good, but chaotic two years with the C’s, left to join the Nets in 2019, pissed off the Boston fans last year, etc. etc. etc. It’s been a good year for Irving when he’s played and he put on a showcase against his (other) former team on Tuesday night. In today’s game, the Nets will need Irving to be locked in early and hunting for his shot. He struggled in the last regular season matchup between these teams, but with this being the playoffs, he’ll be keyed in. Without Williams lurking in the paint, Irving will look to attack the basket early and often. Boston is great at protecting the rim, but Irving is one of the best finishers at the rim in basketball so it’ll be a nice game within the game to see who has the most success.

Player to watch: Jayson Tatum

On one side, we’ve got a young star that’s continued to steadily improve. Jayson Tatum has been wonderful and is one of the league’s best, craftiest scorers. When we last saw JT around these parts, he put on a 50 point masterclass as Boston got the win against the Nets. The Nets will throw a variety of looks at Tatum and they just hope that his shot isn’t there this afternoon. Someone like Claxton will spend a decent amount of time guarding Tatum as his speed and length could bother the Celtics superstar. It won’t be easy, but Brooklyn will look to do everything they can to make it tough on him.

On the other, we’ve got a legend that’s playing at the peak of his powers. Kevin Durant has been on a mission since getting back and is locked in. Durant has anchored the Nets defense, has been coordinating the offense, and when all else fails and you need a bucket, does that too. The great thing about the Nets is that even when things look bleak, you can dial 7 and he’ll be here to save the day. He’s been playing over 40 minutes a game in recent weeks and with the Nets being off for the past four days and two days off before Game 2, look for Nash and friends to climb on his shoulders today.

From the Vault

Last time the Nets were in the building for a playoff game, this happened

More reading: CelticsBlog

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