After a 115-108 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Brooklyn Nets match up against the Boston Celtics in a rematch of last year's first round playoffs.
The Nets were led by guard Kyrie Irving with 34 points on 12/15 shooting from the field and forward Kevin Durant with 25 points and 11 assists.
Over the last month of the regular season, one of the most interesting storylines was where are the Nets going to finish at the end of the season. That question has finally been answered.
The Celtics ended their season on a tear, both on the defensive end and the offensive end too. Pestering teams with ball pressure, getting their hands in the passing lanes, and being able to switch at multiple positions.
Heading into the final day of the regular season, the Celtics were in the No. 3 spot behind Milwaukee, but after a Bucks lose the Celtics were able to snag the No. 2 seed with a win over the Memphis Grizzlies.
Heading into the series this time around, the teams sit at very different positions. The Nets come in this time with no James Harden who is in Philadelphia and no Joe Harris who is out for the season with an ankle injury. They fill that void with Seth Curry, Patty Mills, and Andre Drummond. Curry and Mills provide the shooting Harris brings and Drummond brings a lob threat and a rebounder.
C/O Gregory Fisher
The Celtics come in with Al Horford, Daniel Theis, and Derrick White as new additions in the series.
A looming factor for the Celtics in this series is the injury to Robert Williams. Out since the end of March, Williams has made great progress, but is doubtful to return in the first round.
The departure of Williams in the lineup is a huge blow to the Celtics on both ends of the floor. They miss their lob threat, pick and roll defender, and rim protection without their center. With Williams in the lineup guards like Marcus Smart, Derrick White, and Payton Pritchard were able to pressure the ball more and take chances for steals with the help of Williams defending the paint. Without him, the team has had to change up their defensive scheme and give the bulk of those minutes to Theis who has filled in nicely.
C/O Adam Glanzman
The story for the Nets as of late has been it's defense which frankly, hasn't been that good. Teams have been able to get to rim at ease and push the ball in transition to get easy baskets. A defense that Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have the opportunity to exploit.
"Great amount (of confidence)… that's not a fluke to play at that high level," Coach Ime Udoka said about his confidence in the team heading into the playoffs.
Obviously the star power of Durant and Irving is special to watch as the Nets may be one of the most dangerous lower seeds we've seen ever. With the loss of Williams, Durant and Irving should have more paint opportunities afforded to them. However, they're going to need one other of their supporting cast to have a big series whether it be Seth Curry, Bruce Brown or Patty Mills. Their defense also has to improve mightily and not let Tatum and Brown get to wherever they want in order to pull it out.
The Celtics, with their star forward tandem of Tatum and Brown have to be huge like they have all season, not only scoring, but getting others involved which they have been doing a lot better recently. The improved playmaking of Tatum along with the playmaking of Smart is going to be a big factor to get players like Horford, White and Williams involved. Smart's defensive player of the year case has been strong all year, but his biggest task remains ahead as he'll need to contain Irving for a whole seven game series. The Celtics defensive intensity has stay the same it has over the last few months if the Celtics want to advance.
Heading into Sunday, this may be the most exciting first round matchup for either conference. The Boston faithful will be in full effect to greet Kyrie Irving back to the TD Garden. Let the games begin.