Even the Celtics Think the Nets Will Probably Win

Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving spent about as a lot time on the court docket along with the Nets this season because it takes to look at a Martin Scorsese movie.

The lack of reps is more likely to have little influence as the No. 2 Nets face the No. 7 Boston Celtics, winners of Tuesday’s play-in game over the Washington Wizards, in the first spherical of the N.B.A. playoffs in the Eastern Conference.

The Nets are assembled for the singular goal of stacking 16 postseason wins, which add as much as a championship. They enter the playoffs with all three stars out there after Harden returned from a hamstring pressure earlier than resting the regular-season finale, which didn’t matter for the workforce’s playoff seeding.

The threesome has the mixed credentials for a particular postseason. Durant is a two-time champion and gained a finals Most Valuable Player Award with Golden State. Irving was an important member of Cleveland’s 2016 championship. And Harden, a scoring champion and former M.V.P., as soon as performed in the finals with Durant in Oklahoma City.

But for all their accolades, they had been largely absent from final yr’s postseason. Durant was nonetheless recovering from his ruptured Achilles’ tendon. Irving handled a shoulder harm. And Harden’s Houston Rockets whimpered out of the playoffs, ultimately triggering the seismic deal that landed him with the Nets.

Individually, they don’t have a lot on the basketball court docket to show. Collectively, a profitable postseason from the Nets may present that years of planning and plotting by different franchises can all be for nothing. The N.B.A. is a star-driven league and the Nets flex a stacked deck.

Here’s what it’s essential learn about their first-round sequence towards the Celtics.

Eight video games for a complete of 202 minutes.

Yes, simply 4 extra quarters than a playoff sequence stretched to its max. Durant missed video games due to coronavirus health and security protocols and a hamstring harm. Irving missed time for private causes and for a facial contusion close to the finish of the season. And Harden, traded to the Nets from the Rockets in January, missed a lot of the finish of the common season with a right hamstring injury.

They can do video-game spotlight performs, like Durant’s latest finishing with an alley-oop move off the backboard.

The Nets are usually not simply any workforce with a rookie coach and an unsteady lineup. There is a motive Coach Steve Nash hasn’t sweated a lot this season. While Durant, Irving and Durant didn’t share the court docket typically, Nash has typically had a mix of the three at his disposal and so they’ve all been sensational. Impressively, Harden didn’t want a lot time to familiarize himself with the Nets’ personnel.

Irving capped one in every of the most interesting seasons of his profession in turning into simply the ninth participant in N.B.A. historical past to shoot no less than 90 % from the free-throw line, 50 % from the ground and 40 % from behind-the-arc. He joined Durant and Nash in rarefied territory.

A workforce is stacked when the league’s main 3-point shooter isn’t talked about till this level. The sharpshooter Joe Harris paced the league by making 47.5 % of his pictures from deep, and he ought to be out there after lacking the remaining three video games of the common season with a gluteal pressure.

The Nets tried to upend the buyout market by acquiring former stars — Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge — hoping they nonetheless had slightly mileage left in the tank. Griffin has confirmed the occasional spring in his step and had 20 factors in a win over the Denver Nuggets. An irregular heartbeat abruptly forced Aldridge’s retirement from the N.B.A. in April at the age of 35.

Jeff Green, a veteran with loads of playoff expertise and a member of the Durant-Harden Oklahoma City groups, has been a good addition. Bruce Brown wiggled his method into the rotation following the Harden commerce and by no means relinquished his alternative. The Nets shouldn’t lack for scoring, however they are going to be with out Spencer Dinwiddie, the succesful guard, who’s recovering from a knee harm.

As a head coach, Mike D’Antoni revolutionized the league’s offense, ushering it into modernity by prioritizing area and 3-point capturing. His two primary conduits for respiration life into the imaginative and prescient in his stops in Phoenix and Houston? Nash and Harden.

For all of D’Antoni’s affect, he by no means gained an N.B.A. championship. With the Nets, he’s an assistant to Nash and dealing with Harden, who can be nonetheless vying for his first title.

How about Irving towards his former coach, Brad Stevens, teammates and group? In 2018, Irving advised the die-hard Celtics fan base, “If you guys will have me back, I plan on re-signing here.” Then in July 2019, he signed with the Nets.

Barely. Like the Nets, Boston (36-36) meandered via the regular-season, hindered by accidents and virus protocols. The Celtics wanted the play-in game and Jayson Tatum’s 50 factors towards the Wizards to reach at this matchup. They spent a lot of the season not wanting like a franchise that had journeyed to the Eastern Conference finals three of the final 4 seasons.

Unlike the Nets, Boston won’t be at full energy at the proper time. The All-Star Jaylen Brown is out after wrist surgical procedure for a torn ligament. Center Robert Williams is unsure after he aggravated a turf toe harm throughout the play-in game.

“We’ll do our best to get ready for Brooklyn,” a practical Stevens advised reporters after defeating the Wizards. “They’re the best of the best. As a fan of the N.B.A., it’s hard to see those guys losing. We’re going to have to play great and play great together.”

Durant and Tatum are two of the most prolific and progressive scorers on the planet. This can be Durant’s first postseason since he suffered his Achilles’ tendon harm in Game 5 of the 2019 N.B.A. finals with Golden State. As a lot of an offensive expertise as Durant is, Nash has labeled him his workforce’s finest defender and Durant will possible test Tatum typically in the sequence.

The Nets swept the three video games from the Celtics, regardless of having to combine and match their lineups.

See the above.

Tatum and this latest picture of Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York dressed up in random Nets gear. De Blasio was posing to carry consideration to the Barclays Center pop-up vaccination website, however it isn’t precisely a glance that strikes worry in an opponent.

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