Nasty. Nasty, nasty, nasty, nasty basketball. On Wednesday night, the Brooklyn Nets had a chance to even up the series against the Boston Celtics. They were up by as much as 17 points, but gradually tricked it off, melted down in the fourth quarter and took a difficult loss on the road. They’re down 2-0 and things are looking bad around these parts. Figure it out immediately, or else.
To the victor goes the spoils, and a recap from the opposition.
Where to follow the game
YES Network and ESPN on TV. WFAN on radio. Tip after 7:30 p.m.
Joe Harris is out. Blake Griffin was questionable with a left ankle sprain but was declared available Saturday morning. Ben Simmons is still out, and all signs point to him making his Nets and season debut on Monday night. We’ll see.
As it turns out, Robert Williams might be back sooner than expected! He is officially listed as “questionable” with a left knee injury.
The odds favor the Nets tonight, and Brooklyn is going to need to marshal every bit of energy they’ve got to win this one. Crowd’s gotta be on it. Players gotta be on it. You (yes YOU at home!) gotta be on it.
From here on out, the games will be every other day.
Around the NBA today, the Philadelphia 76ers will be looking to complete the four game sweep of the Toronto Raptors at 2 p.m., the Dallas Mavericks will look to go up 3-1 on the Utah Jazz at 4:30 p.m., and the Memphis Grizzlies will look to go up 3-1 on the Minnesota Timberwolves in the nightcap at 10:30 p.m. TNT has the afternoon games while ESPN takes over starting with our game.
We talk a lot about the Nets offense and we know what happens when they’re at their best. The ball moves around, they generate clean looks from deep, and are playing with tempo and getting easy buckets in transition. That hasn’t been happening and all eyes are focused on the dude in the suit. To put it mildly, it hasn’t been the best of series for Steve Nash as his faults are being magnified. What would help Nash and the Nets is if they move the ball around a lot more. When they fell apart in the fourth, the offense bogged down into isolations as they couldn’t get anything going against a locked in defense that knew what was coming. Brooklyn is still plenty talented so they should utilize the guys here in a better capacity so the offense can return to its dynamic state. If the Nets can move the ball like they should, that’ll get Seth Curry plenty of clean looks from deep, and he’s been doing his job from downtown thus far. Get yourself easy shots and good things are bound to happen.
The Nets also have to clean up their defense because this can’t happen. Grant Williams is one of the best corner three point shooters in the NBA and lazy closeouts like that spell doom this time of the year. No excuses.
Bruce Brown joined the party on Wednesday night as he knocked down his open threes, was tied for the team lead in rebounds, and did a good job defending Jayson Tatum, holding the star to 0-6 (with two blocks!) from the field when he was the primary defender. Brown will be essential to their defensive efforts tonight and he’s going to need to replicate that level of play every game out so the Nets can have a chance to get in the winning column.
Tatum’s shot hasn’t been here yet, but he’s contributing in every other area and that’s what franchise players do at this time of year. He’s been playing amazing defense, has been the leader of the team, and made timely plays to keep the Nets off balance. Brooklyn has to be fearful that the offensive explosion is around the corner.
A combined eight rebounds from your two centers is unacceptable and the Nets will need Andre Drummond and Nic Claxton to snag every rebound imaginable when they’re underneath the basket.
A 4-of-13 shot chart is nasty as hell, but at the same time, it felt as if the Nets didn’t really work to get Kyrie Irving a lot of shots. The offense got stagnant and he didn’t get to attack the basket as much as he needs to for this team to excel. His last field goal attempt came with 4:18 left in the game, and that should never, EVER happen. The Nets should make it a point to feature Irving as much as they can and try to punish certain matchups. Friend of the site, Mike Prada, observed that the Nets didn’t attack Payton Pritchard when he was on the court, and they should all be looking to put him in the torture chamber.
Player to watch: Al Horford
With no Robert Williams, the Celtics put a lot on Al Horford’s shoulders, and he’s stepped up to the challenge. Horford got a lot of open threes thanks to lousy Nets defense in Game 2, and he made them pay for it. Horford fits the Celtics like a glove and his return to the team gave them a capable rebounder, good rim protector, and another good option to initiate offense and find his teammates.
Wanna get an idea of how nasty things has been for the Nets?
Made field goals this series:— StatMuse (@statmuse) April 21, 2022
14 — Al Horford
13 — Kevin Durant pic.twitter.com/EyKj345Eug
For the Nets, everything starts with Kevin Durant. KD has had his worst two games as a Net at the absolute worst possible time, and he’s got to adjust to the defense Ime Udoka and the C’s are throwing at him. In the postgame, Durant noted that they’re throwing multiple guys at him and has been sped up a bit. He also said:
“They’re playing two or three guys on me sometimes when I’m off the ball, mucking up actions when I run off stuff. I see [Al] Horford leaving his man and coming over to hit me sometimes. There are two or three guys hitting me wherever I go. That’s just the nature of the beast in the playoffs.”
What the Celtics have done is play him incredibly physically and thrown him out of his comfort spots. To help counteract that, it might help to take KD off of the ball. He’s been bringing the ball up a bit more than usual, and it’s not working. Brooklyn has turned it over 30 times in the two gams, and 12 of them have come from KD. Some of it is a result of Boston defense, but a lot of them have just been a result of loose, careless ballhandling.
Similar to Irving, Durant could benefit to work closer to the basket. He hasn’t gotten many shots at the rim and has been settling for contested jumpers in heavy traffic. Getting Durant off the ball, setting more screens to get the Celtics off of him, and perhaps most importantly, KD accepting the double teams and finding his open teammates will be essential if the Nets want to enter the win column. Something to also keep note of is the crowd getting on the refs when Boston gets extra physical. Refs are human and can be swayed by the home crowd giving them hell when their superstar is being roughed up.
For as bad as he’s been, the Nets have still been competitive in both games. It’s going to take a collective effort to get the job done and if KD is on top of his game, their chances will improve a tremendous deal.
From the Vault
We can rock out with some Prince.
More reading: CelticsBlog
Check out DraftKings Sportsbook, the official sportsbook partner of SB Nation.
- Brooklyn Nets Game Notes - Brooklyn Nets
- Boston Celtics Game Notes - Boston Celtics
- Nets home, searching for answers for swarming Celtics in Game 3 - Larry Fleisher
- Nets hope to get Durant started, 76ers try to finish Raptors - Brian Mahoney - AP
- Nets risk on-court ‘continuity’ with Ben Simmons’ return approaching - Marc Berman - New York Post
- Ben Simmons ‘not worried’ about challenge of making Nets’ debut in playoffs - Peter Botte - New York Post
- Nets need Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving to fix their games — fast - Peter Botte - New York Post
- Ben Simmons’ audacious comeback? It’s these Nets as usual - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Ben Simmons eyeing a Game 4 return for Nets - Barbara Barker - Newsday
- Under pressure to avoid first-round disaster, Steve Nash says he’ll make small adjustments for pivotal Game 3 - Stefan Bondy - New York Daily News
- Ben Simmons hopeful for long-awaited return next week, but will it be too late? - Stefan Bondy - New York Daily News
- Sources: Brooklyn Nets’ Ben Simmons plans to play in Gm. 4 vs. Boston Celtics on Monday night - Nick Friedell - ESPN
- Rob Williams and Ben Simmons are approaching return, how will Celtics respond? - Jared Weiss - The Athletic
- Nets could get first look at Ben Simmons experience in Game 4: ‘I want to be on the floor the whole time’ - Adam Schiffer - The Athletic
- Kevin Durant vs. Celtics: What NBA scouts say about the matchup — ‘He’s not vintage Durant right now’ - Sam Amick - The Athletic
- Nets’ Ben Simmons confirms no Game 3 return but ‘hopeful’ for Game 4 - Phillip Martinez - SNY
- Even with potential first-round exit, Nets’ season wouldn’t be total failure - David Vertsberger - SNY
- As Brooklyn Nets return to Barclays Center for first home playoff game tonight, arena is draped in new “NetsLevel” promotions (+KD/Nike ads) - Norman Oder - Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Report
- Seven thoughts on the Celtics as they look to extend their series lead on Nets - Adam Himmelsbach - Boston Globe
- Robert Williams could return to Celtics as soon as Game 3 Saturday - Adam Himmelsbach - Boston Globe
- Grant Williams has emerged as an essential piece during the Celtics’ unlikely transformation into a title contender - Adam Himmelsbach - Boston Globe
- Ben Simmons reportedly set to make his debut for Nets in Game 4 against Celtics - Christopher Price - Boston Globe
- Rob Williams closes in on return - Mark Murphy - Boston Herald
- Celtics notebook: Ime Udoka draws on the past to defend Kevin Durant - Mark Murphy - Boston Herald