Even the Celtics Assume the Nets Will In all probability Win

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

The dearth of reps is prone to have little influence because the No. 2 Nets face the No. 7 Boston Celtics, winners of Tuesday’s play-in recreation over the Washington Wizards, within the first spherical of the N.B.A. playoffs within the Jap Convention.

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

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

However for all their accolades, they have been principally 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, finally triggering the seismic deal that landed him with the Nets.

Individually, they don’t have a lot on the basketball courtroom 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.

Right here’s what it’s essential find out about their first-round sequence in opposition to the Celtics.

Eight video games for a complete of 202 minutes.

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

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

The Nets are usually not simply any crew with a rookie coach and an unsteady lineup. There’s a purpose Coach Steve Nash hasn’t sweated a lot this season. Whereas Durant, Irving and Durant didn’t share the courtroom usually, Nash has usually had a mixture 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 of many most interesting seasons of his profession in changing 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 crew 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 obtainable after lacking the ultimate 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 a bit of mileage left within 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 on the age of 35.

Jeff Inexperienced, a veteran with loads of playoff expertise and a member of the Durant-Harden Oklahoma Metropolis groups, has been an honest addition. Bruce Brown wiggled his means 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 house and 3-point taking pictures. His two most important 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 in opposition to his former coach, Brad Stevens, teammates and group? In 2018, Irving instructed the die-hard Celtics fan base, “Should you guys may have me again, I plan on re-signing right here.” Then in July 2019, he signed with the Nets.

Barely. Just like the Nets, Boston (36-36) meandered by means of the regular-season, hindered by accidents and virus protocols. The Celtics wanted the play-in recreation and Jayson Tatum’s 50 factors in opposition to the Wizards to reach at this matchup. They spent a lot of the season not trying like a franchise that had journeyed to the Jap Convention finals three of the final 4 seasons.

Not like the Nets, Boston is not going to be at full power on the proper time. The All-Star Jaylen Brown is out after wrist surgical procedure for a torn ligament. Heart Robert Williams is unsure after he aggravated a turf toe harm throughout the play-in recreation.

“We’ll do our greatest to prepare for Brooklyn,” a sensible Stevens instructed reporters after defeating the Wizards. “They’re the very best of the very best. As a fan of the N.B.A., it’s onerous to see these guys shedding. We’re going to should play nice and play nice collectively.”

Durant and Tatum are two of probably the most prolific and modern scorers on the planet. This will probably be Durant’s first postseason since he suffered his Achilles’ tendon harm in Recreation 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 crew’s finest defender and Durant will possible examine Tatum usually within 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 current photograph of Mayor Invoice de Blasio of New York dressed up in random Nets gear. De Blasio was posing to deliver consideration to the Barclays Heart pop-up vaccination web site, however it’s not precisely a glance that strikes worry in an opponent.

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