We all knew this was the most likely outcome, but until the Nets dispatched the Cleveland Cavaliers in their April 12 play-in game, we couldn’t be 100% sure. Still, the most logical outcome has come to fruition, and the Celtics will face the team that sent them packing in the first round of the 2020-21 playoffs.
However, Boston is almost unrecognizable from the team we saw get stomped in a gentleman sweep last year, and many have them as slight favorites entering the series.
“I do believe that Boston is the bigger challenge to the Brooklyn Nets. It’s because of how Boston plays defense collectively, now some people say Miami, and I get Miami they’ve got a lot of weapons. The difference between Miami and Boston is that I view Boston as having two closers. I see Miami as having a bunch of dudes who can close, but no definitive closer.
And we know Broolyn’s got two closers. When I take into account how tenacious Boston’s defense has been, I give Boston a better shot against Brooklyn than Miami in a first-round series,” Stephen A Smith said on a recent episode of ESPN’s First Take.
Boston’s chances of winning their upcoming series against a Nets team that was heavily favored as championship favorites heading into the season will hinge on their ability to fight through adversity. Sometimes, the Nets are going to go on big scoring runs, and they will look unstoppable, but if the Celtics can stay committed to the task at hand, they should be good enough to take the Nets down to the wire.
Route to The Finals is Perilous
No matter how you slice it, the Celtics were going to face a powerhouse on the route to the conference finals. The Eastern Conference is incredibly deep this season, and there are no easy roads to a championship ring.
Had the Celtics avoided Brooklyn in the first round of the playoffs, they would still face one of the Milwaukee Bucks or Chicago Bulls in the second round, with a conference finals against either the Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers, or Toronto Raptors awaiting them. However, when it comes to this Celtics team, self-belief doesn’t project to be an issue.
“I think we’re really confident. We believe in ourselves, but we only have one goal and one mind. But obviously, it starts with one playoff series at a time, but we’re ready,” Pritchard said of the Celtics’ confidence in a recent press conference.
With that in mind, perhaps it’s better for the Celtics to start their playoffs against an elite opponent. Because there’s nothing worse than being lulled into a false sense of security, only to have the rug pulled from under you, and to be shellshocked at the gravity of the task at hand.
Steve Nash Praises Boston Ahead of Playoff Series
The Nets haven’t had the easiest of season. Kyrie Irving was ineligible to play home games for the majority of the basketball year, Kevin Durant missed time with an MCL sprain, and the James Harden saga was an unwelcome distraction.
It’s easy to look at the Nets’ current standings in the Eastern Conference and disregard their talent, but it’s clear they’re one of the most talented teams in the NBA. Still, the Celtics are the league’s best defensive unit, and Brooklyn won’t be in for an easy ride against Boston – something that Nets head coach Steve Nash touched on during his April 12 post-game press conference.
“Really impressed with the Celtics and job Ime has done. They’ve been able to build on that continuity, that group’s been together for quite a while. And they’ve made some tweaks and adjustments that have really improved their team on both ends of the floor. So, it will be a great challenge for us, and for a new group to go and play a team like that, that’s terrific at both ends, it’s going to be a good challenge for us,” Nash said.
The Celtics and Nets will face off for game one of their playoff series on Sunday, April 17, as we begin to see two of the NBA’s best teams do battle for the second season running.