The Playoff Series That Shouldn’t Be: Celtics vs. Nets
Game 1 of the Celtics vs. Nets series was one of the best first-round playoff games in years.
From Kyrie Irving flipping off Celtics fans to a Jayson Tatum game-winning buzzer beater, this game had it all.
Both teams looked like true contenders to win the Eastern Conference with the amount of high play and star power that graced the floor.
This has not been apparent in the other three first-round matchups in the conference.
The No. 1 seeded Miami Heat locked down Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young in Game 1 of their series. Jimmy Butler took over in Game 2 for the Heat to take a commanding 2-0 series lead.
The Philadelphia 76ers have blown out the Toronto Raptors by double digits in their two opening contests while Toronto continues to deal with injuries to key players.
The defending champions, the Milwaukee Bucks, have a 1-0 series lead against the Chicago Bulls and are heavily favored to advance out of the first round.
The series between the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets is leagues more competitive than the others.
The Nets are way better than their No. 7 seed might depict them as.
For most of the season, superstar point guard Kyrie Irving could not play home games due to his vaccination status. Fellow leader and former MVP Kevin Durant missed months due to injury.
Factor in a trade deadline deal that sent another former MVP in James Harden to Philadelphia for a package around Ben Simmons, and head coach Steve Nash has had more than his hands full.
Simmons has not yet played and is expected to be back at some point in the NBA playoffs.
The constant juggling of lineups and availability of team leaders left Brooklyn to claim the No. 7 seed. Now that the squad is nearly fully assembled, they pose a threat to all fellow Eastern Conference contenders.
As for the Celtics, Brad Stevens has assembled a team of large, athletic, high-character players around franchise players Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
The C’s play phenomenal defense and have a plethora of players with high basketball IQs and invaluable playoff experience.
This was wonderfully demonstrated in the closing seconds of game one against the Nets.
With less than five seconds remaining in the game, Marcus Smart caught the ball on the far wing outside the three-point arc.
Instead of forcing up a tough shot, Smart got two defenders to bite with a pump fake, drove to the lane and swiftly delivered the ball to Tatum, who pirouetted his way to a buzzer-beating layup.
Smart showed calmness and intelligence in the dying seconds while Tatum demonstrated tremendous instincts in cutting to the basket.
The Celtics play smart basketball and strong defense, two key elements that teams need to win championships.
The Nets, on the other hand, simply have some of the best talent in the league.
The way Irving plays under pressure is phenomenal. The more the Boston faithful boo and curse his name, the more ridiculous shots he seems to knock down.
Kyrie loves the spotlight.
Durant is a monster in himself. A unicorn who can shoot from anywhere at nearly 7 feet tall.
Both these players require regular double teams, but when they play together, teams have to pick and choose.
The Nets turned the ball over 16 times and Durant shot just 9-of-24 yet Brooklyn lost game one on the road by a buzzer beater.
Ultimately, it is a shame that one of these teams will be eliminated in the first round.
Both squads are tremendous in their own right and have legitimate NBA Finals aspirations.
It will be exciting to see who wins the battle between Boston’s brains and defense or Brooklyn’s otherworldly talent.
Either way, it will be thrilling to watch both teams give it their all.
Maclain Young is a second-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.