By: Nick Adamopoulos –
Three games into their best of seven series against the Brooklyn Nets, and the Boston Celtics have put the rest of the NBA on notice. The Boston Celtics are legit contenders to make the NBA Finals this season. The Celtics are up three games to zero against the Nets and have a chance to complete the series sweep tonight in Brooklyn.
How have the Celtics found themselves one win away from advancing to the next round of the playoffs? Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have outplayed Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant through three games; the Celtics’ supporting cast has outperformed the Nets’ supporting cast; Ime Udoka has outcoached Steve Nash; and the Celtics’ defense has dominated the Nets’ offense. Tatum and Brown have averaged a combined 53 points through the first three games of the series compared to 44 points for the Nets’ duo of Durant and Irving. The most relevant stat of the series may not be visible in the box score, but Tatum and Brown have been asked tasked with Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart to defend Irving and Durant throughout the series and have simply kept the two Nets’ stars from finding any offensive rhythm. Durant has found no offensive rhythm over the last two games and has scored the majority of his points at the foul line after being physically dominated throughout the series. Durant and Nash have both cited the Celtics’ physicality on the defensive end as a reason for the Celtics’ success in the series. Irving put on a show in game one scoring 39 points and looked like the best player on the court, but has struggled since, scoring 10 points in game two and 16 points in game three.
A sweep on Monday evening would continue the momentum the Celtics have had since January of this year. Momentum that has continued to build as the Celtics found their identity as a team centered around a young nucleus, a young star, and a strong defensive identity. A round two series against the reigning NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks is on the horizon. The Celtics should have a healthy Robert Williams back and off his minutes’ restriction by the time that series starts, while the Bucks may still be missing Khris Middleton from its rotation. The Celtics’ defense will have to find a way once again to shut down one of the NBA’s top stars and defend Giannis Antetokounmpo who has averaged 27.5 points, 14.5 rebounds, and 7 assists during the current playoffs.
Over the last few seasons, Boston fans have encountered two different types of Celtics teams: either a Celtics team high on talent but lacking heart, or a Celtics team full of heart but lacking talent. This current team has found a balance of both talent and heart, and this balance might propel the team to its first Eastern Conference finals since 2018 and its first NBA Finals since 2010.