August 12, 2022

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The Nets don’t stand an opportunity if Kevin Durant doesn’t present up

BOSTON — Steve Nash needs followers to consider the Nets’ playoff hopes don’t squarely relaxation on Kevin Durant’s shoulders; His workforce’s success is extra a byproduct of wonderful workforce basketball than the celebrities they signed to max contracts.

The Nets’ 114-107 loss to the Celtics in Sport 2 decisively proved in any other case, as did a daily season that spiraled whereas each of these stars had availability points. In a recreation neither of their stars confirmed up, the Nets’ supporting solid couldn’t carry the load.

For the second recreation in a row, Durant, a two-time NBA Finals MVP and four-time NBA scoring champion, succumbed to the stress and physicality of the league-best Celtics’ protection. And for the second recreation in a row, the Nets paid for it with a loss, which stung far more than the buzzer-beating game-winner that value them Sport 1.

Durant turned the ball over six occasions in Sport 2 — after lacking 15 photographs and turning the ball over six occasions in Sport 1 — and shot 4-of-17 from the sector for 27 factors, with nearly all of his factors coming on the foul line. He went to the charity stripe 20 occasions and transformed on 18 of these photographs.

However this time, Durant didn’t have Kyrie Irving as famous person assist. Irving, who pelted the Celtics for 39 factors in Sport 1, tallied simply 10 factors on 4-of-13 taking pictures from the sector in 41 minutes of play. Below Boston’s swarming defensive stress — and relentless jeering from the identical Celtics followers he as soon as performed in entrance of — the Nets’ star ahead put up a dud.

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As did the Nets, who continued to go as their stars go.

What’s crystal clear about these playoff Nets has been clear all season lengthy. If Durant isn’t having a particular recreation, or if Irving isn’t having a particular recreation, these Nets as a rule don’t stand an opportunity in opposition to the higher groups within the NBA. That a lot was confirmed when the Nets spiraled from first to tenth within the Japanese Convention when Durant sprained his MCL midseason.

However the Nets head coach doesn’t consider that. A minimum of not out loud.

“This isn’t nearly Kevin,” Nash stated pregame. “It’s about our workforce enjoying higher. We didn’t stroll away from it (Sport 1) saying effectively if Kevin performs higher we win. That’s not the best way we approached it in any respect.”

That’s precisely how Celtics head coach, Nash’s former assistant, Ime Udoka approached this sequence.

Udoka has a protracted historical past with Durant, as an assistant in Brooklyn and on U.S. males’s nationwide basketball workforce. In March, he stated the Nets don’t run something notably artistic with their offensive units and that in the event you can neutralize Durant and Irving, you’ll be able to neutralize the workforce.

“We all know he’s gonna come out extra aggressive,” Udoka stated of Durant pregame. “I noticed a stat the opposite day that he averages 41.8 coming off of losses for the Nets within the playoffs, and so understanding what he’s going to come back out and attempt to do and we have now to do our half so far as that, and never be caught off guard together with his aggressiveness popping out. So I’m positive we’ll. Everyone knows that.”

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Durant and Irving obtained the assistance. Seth Curry hit 4 3-pointers and completed with 16 factors. Goran Dragic scored 18 factors in 20 minutes off the bench. Bruce Brown scored their first 9 factors and completed with 23 factors on 3-of-4 taking pictures from downtown. And the Nets held Celtics’ All-Star Jayson Tatum to only 5-of-16 taking pictures for less than 19 factors after he scored 31 in Sport 1.

However of the eight gamers who logged minutes in inexperienced and white, seven scored in double figures. That’s as a result of these Celtics weren’t constructed solely on star energy. They have been constructed on sharing the ball, turning protection into offense and enjoying bodily basketball.

The Nets grabbed the identical variety of rebounds because the Celtics and received the battle on the offensive glass. They turned the ball over the identical variety of occasions as their opponent and blocked 4 extra photographs than them, too.

None of that mattered, although, as a result of the Nets’ No. 7 and No. 11 didn’t have it going. And in the event that they don’t get it going quickly, it received’t matter whether or not or not Ben Simmons fits up or the sequence shifts again to Barclays Heart. The Nets won’t win this sequence.

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