Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets were facing elimination in Game 4 of their first-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics Monday evening.
Down 3-0 in the series and facing yet another premature playoff exit, the Nets had to win on their homecourt to force Game 5 in Boston Wednesday evening.
As for the Celtics, they have been the hottest team in the NBA over the past few months – boasting a 29-5 record since starting the regular season a pedestrian 25-25.
We could all pretty much see the writing on the wall here after both Irving and Durant struggled to keep Brooklyn in the series during Game 3 this past weekend. Like clockwork, the Celtics came out of the gate strong by scoring 30 points in the first quarter alone. Led by Jayson Tatum and an improved Grant Williams, Boston held an eight-point lead after the first two quarters.
With the Nets relying on the scoring prowess of Kevin Durant, they were able to keep this a single-digit game in the third quarter. Unfortunately, Irving’s inability to do anything of substance coupled with a lack of scoring from Brooklyn’s starting frontcourt outside of Durant himself held Brooklyn back.
In the end, Boston came away with a series-clinching 116-112 win — sending the Nets into the offseason with a ton of question marks and setting up a likely conference semifinal matchup with the defending NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks. Below, we look at five takeaways from the Boston Celtics four-point win over the Brooklyn Nets Monday evening inside the Barclays Center.
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Jayson Tatum continues to prove he can be No. 1 option on a contending team
Still only 24 years old (that’s actually a thing), Tatum entered Monday’s action averaging 29.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 8.0 assists through the first three games of the series. After jumping on to the scene as a rookie during the Celtics’ run to the Eastern Conference Finals back in 2018, Tatum has continually proven that no stage is too big for him.
- Jayson Tatum career playoff stats: 22.0 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 3.8 APG, 44% shooting
While Tatum’s numbers were not eye-opening like we saw earlier in the series, he put up a workmanlike performance before fouling out late in the fourth. The former Duke star scored 29 points on 9-of-16 shooting while dishing out five assists. He also finished plus-10 in 36 minutes of action. At this point, there’s absolutely no reason to believe that Tatum can’t be a No. 1 option on a championship-contending team. We’ll continue to find this out as the 2022 NBA Playoffs move forward with Boston headed to the Eastern Conference semifinals.
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Brooklyn Nets might end up firing Steve Nash
It was back during the COVID-19 shortened 2019-20 season that former Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson had his team in the playoff hunt before the season was suspended. Atkinson didn’t join the rest of his team in the Orlando bubble and was replaced by Jacque Vaughn on an interim basis.
This iteration of the Nets consisted of Kyrie Irving playing all of 20 games with Durant sitting out after he suffered an Achilles injury in the 2019 NBA Finals as a member of the Warriors. Of the regular starters, Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert led the team in scoring. It resulted in a first-round sweep at the hands of the Toronto Raptors.
Why is this relevent? Fast forward less than two calendar years, and the Nets were once again swept out of the first round. Only this time, they had two all-time great players in Irving and Durant on the roster. The lack of any type of championship-caliber play should lead to Nash’s dismissal from the Nets after two average seasons manning the bench. It really is that simple.
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Grant Williams can be Boston Celtics’ x-factor moving forward
An inconsistent and enigmatic figure since the Celtics made him a first-round pick out of Tennessee in the 2019 NBA Draft, Williams had somewhat of a coming-out party Game 2 against the Nets. That included the forward hitting on all four of his shots (three from distance) en route to scoring 17 points. For a Celtics team that had struggled in the first quarter of said game, it was a big pick-me-up.
After an unassuming seven-point performance in Game 3, Williams was back at it again for the Celtics as they closed out Brooklyn. He connected on 4-of-6 shots from distance while scoring 14 points and playing great defense in 33 minutes of action.
In reality, this is just another layer that has been added to the Celtics during their playoff run. They already have Tatum and Jaylen Brown who can create their own shots. Boston boasts the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year in Marcus Smart. It has a solid rotation of big men in Al Horford, Daniel Theis and Robert Williams. Being able to see Grant Williams come off the bench and light it up scoring could loom large moving forward in the postseason.
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Brooklyn Nets’ Kevin Durant leaves everything on the court
Earlier this series, Durant put up the worst two-game performance of his career. We’re talking both the regular season and the playoffs. He struggled down the stretch in Game 3 with multiple fourth-quarter turnovers while being scene getting some words in with Irving on the court.
During Game 3’s loss to the Celtics, Nash told reporters that Durant needed to be more aggressive. He took all of 11 shots compared to 19 from Bruce Brown. Yeah, that was also a thing. Following the game, KD told the press that he had been too aggressive in the first two games.
“I’m just thinking too much, to be honest,” said Durant. “This whole series … the first two games, I was trying to be too aggressive. A team is loading up on me, taking me out of all my actions, I felt like was trying to force it. My approach to this game was to play off of everybody. Get in the flow of the offense. Let the ball move and find me … I felt that we had a good flow.”Brooklyn Nets’ Kevin Durant on Game 3 performance
Outside of a disconnect between Durant and his head coach, Durant left everything out on the court in Game 4 of the Nets’ first-round series loss.
Showing himself to be more aggressive Monday night, Durant led the Nets with 39 points. He teamed up with Seth Curry to close the gap some to start the fourth quarter and made the Celtics sweat. All the while, Kyrie Irving was pretty darn silent throughout the game.
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Boston Celtics as legit NBA title contenders
We can talk about the Celtics’ star power all we want. However, one thing became apparent during its sweep of the Nets. Depth was a huge factor. First-year head coach Ime Udoka now has a rotation that goes nine deep following the return of Robert Williams from injury.
After turning in his clipboard for a front office role following last season, president Brad Stevens has played a starring role in building up this depth. That included adding Derrick White and Daniel Theis during the NBA trade deadline.
Game 4 was a prime example of the Celtics’ roster construction and depth winning out. In addition to Williams scoring 14 points, White added nine points of his own. Williams, in just his second game back, grabbed five boards and banged with Brooklyn’s big men inside. These are the performances that won’t be talked about, and they have Boston looking like a legitimate NBA title contender.