The Boston Celtics have put the Nets in a 3-0 stranglehold with a dominating defensive performance in Brooklyn on Saturday. A Nets team whom many called the best seventh seed ever because of their superstar duo of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving looks like a beaten and downtrodden group.
If Saturday was any indication, this group of Nets players doesn’t have much fight left, and that begins with Kevin Durant. The smooth-shooting scoring machine has been limited to just 66 points on 19-52 shooting (36%) over the first three games. Kyrie Irving hasn’t been much better scoring a combined 65 points on 22-50 shooting (44%). Irving got 39 of those 65 in a Game 1 last-second loss.
.@JalenRose on the Nets' Game 3 loss to the Celtics:
“The Nets quit.” pic.twitter.com/DpIN8mFT3x
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) April 24, 2022
NBA analyst Kendrick Perkins, who said Durant got “punked” after his Game 1 performance, had this to say about KD and his teammates following the Game 3 loss.
“The Celtics have snatched the Nets’ soul. They’re punking them, they punked KD, they done made Kevin Durant quit. He had no interest whatsoever in playing this game. He was not engaged.”
“Some people were saying that KD and Kyrie were the most skilled duo of all time. What did we just witness? We witnessed the Boston Celtics make both of those guys quit.”
— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) April 24, 2022
Celtics head coach Ime Udoka was a Nets assistant before taking over in “Beantown,” and it looks as if he knows how to defend both Durant and Irving.
Celtics Elite Defense Led By Elite Wing Duo Has Been On Full Display
The Celtics drafted stars Jayson Tatum (2017) and Jaylen Brown (2016) in back-to-back drafts. While there was never a question about the duo’s talent, there were questions about their chemistry and their defensive intensity. For years, under former head coach Brad Stevens, they’d have big scoring nights and nights where they played defense at a high-level, but rarely did they put both on display nightly.
With first-year head coach Ime Udoka now stalking the sidelines, failing to play defense isn’t an option for anyone wearing green. Setting the defensive tone begins with the aforementioned JT and JB.
The dynamic duo has responded all season as the Celtics finished first in overall defense, leading the league in fewest points allowed, assists allowed and three-point percentage.
Throw-in 2021-22 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart, and that’s about as formidable a perimeter defense as you’ll find. That trio has taken turns along with others, bottling up Durant and Irving with regularity. In fact, they’re making them earn everything, while living with players like Bruce Brown and Nick Claxton beating them. It’s a brilliant strategy, and so far it’s worked for three games.
CELTICS GO UP 3-0 ☘️
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown put on a show in Brooklyn
JT: 39 PTS & 6 STL
JB: 23 PTS & 5 AST pic.twitter.com/nj8E07rNPq
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) April 24, 2022
In an interview after winning the Olympic gold medal, KD told Udoka, an assistant on the team, that the Celtics were going to have problems with his Nets this season.
Tatum wasn’t feeling the comment.
KD: “There’s gon be problems for the Boston Celtics this year!”
Ime Udoka: “We know how to lock Patty ass up” 🤣🤣 pic.twitter.com/5zm9g86ESq
— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) August 7, 2021
Looks like Tatum and Idoka took that KD comment to heart, and it’s showing in this one-sided series. And unless Steve Nash and his team can muster up some intestinal fortitude, and push this series back to Boston for Game 5, this will end in a sweep.
Nets coach Steve Nash, who’s been badly out coached by his former assistant Udoka, said his guys looked tired.
Durant was more blunt about the situation.
“They’re just bigger than us,” said the two-time World Champ.
Maybe he should’ve said they’re also stronger and much more physical as well.
Celtic Great Paul Pierce Makes A Proclamation
Celtics legend Paul “The Truth” Pierce is of the belief that Tatum has surpassed Durant in NBA hierarchy.
“I think Jayson Tatum may be surpassing Kevin Durant right before our eyes in the NBA hierarchy.”
That remains to be seen, given all that Durant has accomplished, but in this series he’s clearly been the better player, and his team has been the better team.