The Nets made half their pictures in opposition to the Celtics and made 12 threes on 29 makes an attempt. They moved the ball for 25 assists on 39 discipline targets and 6 of their 9 gamers who logged minutes scored in double figures.
But for the third sport in a row, Celtics head coach Ime Udoka solved the nice puzzle posed by the beforehand unguardable Kevin Durant.
Durant, who calls himself the Easy Money Sniper, has turn into Las Vegas’ Easy Money Under. It’s turn into the most secure wager in all of basketball because the Celtics put the clamps on him in Game 1: Whatever Vegas thinks Durant goes to attain, the Celtics have made it their life’s mission to not let him get there.
Thus has been the undoing of a superteam touted early-season championship contenders. For the third sport in a row, Durant struggled in opposition to the physicality, size and creativity of a league-best Celtics’ protection that’s had each reply for KD’s each transfer. He solely took 11 pictures and scored 16 factors to go together with eight assists and 5 turnovers.
“That was a sh—y game, man. A s—-y game,” Durant mentioned.
And the Nets succumbed to the Celtics’ protection in a 109-103 loss at Barclays Center — an enviornment that sounded extra like Boston’s TD Garden with Celtics followers that flooded the empty seats lengthy earlier than tipoff, booed Kyrie Irving on his residence ground, chanted MVP at famous person Jayson Tatum within the sport’s waning moments and in the end helped neutralize any benefit the Nets could have had enjoying in entrance of their hometown followers.
And now, the Nets discover themselves down within the playoff sequence, 3-0, a deficit no crew in NBA historical past has ever overcome. It’s nearly time to interrupt out the brooms. A sweep isn’t simply on the desk. The method the Celtics have bottled-up Durant and the Nets, it’s doubtless their season ends on Monday.
“Man, we know what it is,” Durant mentioned of the sequence deficit. “I don’t think no speech or anything gonna do [anything] at this point in the year. We know what it is. We’ve got another game on Monday. Just come out and play.”
Call them the Durant Rules, and former Nets assistant-turned Celtics head coach Ime Udoka has set them. This crew doesn’t seem like one set to defy the chances, make NBA historical past and even put forth a spirited effort with their season on the road on Monday.
If Durant holds the ball, his defender smothers him. If he places the ball on the ground, a second defender darts his method. If he doesn’t have the ball, one defender denies the move and one other lurks to ship assistance on the catch. And if he someway battles by means of all that contact, all that friction between himself and the ball, he’s nonetheless obtained to make a shot, which by means of three video games has been contested by roughly 2.5 defenders per try.
Udoka has crafted a sport plan tailored to decelerate the Nets’ all-world scorer, and in consequence, Durant has turn into unrecognizable, extra MarShon Brooks than Kobe Bryant. He mentioned pregame Boston’s sport plan was to remove Durant’s air house then ship him towards the assistance off the dribble. It’s what they did to carry Durant to simply 13-of-41 taking pictures with 12 turnovers in Games 1 and a couple of.
“[It’s been] more of same,” Udoka mentioned after Game 3. “We’re making it robust, doing our work early. Quite a lot of these deflections you guys spoke about or steals that we obtained have been being in denial and being body-to-body, pushing the catches out, larger pickup factors to allow them to’t stroll into these three pointers.
“And if they have other guys shooting the most shots or scoring the most points, I feel like we’re in good shape.”
Through three video games in opposition to the Celtics, Durant has solely tallied 66 factors and has turned the ball over 17 occasions. He doesn’t look certain of himself, has overthought nearly each possession, and now not seems like the very best participant on the ground. That title now belongs to Tatum, who scored 39 factors on Saturday and has mirrored his offensive manufacturing with stifling protection on Durant in all three video games of the sequence.
“I thought he was looking to find his teammates because he’s been loaded up on,” head coach Steve Nash mentioned. “Probably passed on some looks because he’s expecting guys to come but I thought he tried to play the right way and we just obviously struggled a little bit connecting passes tonight.”
For reference, Durant averaged 42 factors per sport following a playoff loss final season and ended the common season with the best point-per-game common at 29.9.
Durant was despondent postgame. When requested what he wanted to do in another way to proper the ship in Game 4, his solutions got here off extra like questions.
“The first two games I just felt like there wasn’t a lot of space for me to operate to score, so I didn’t want to force it,” Durant mentioned. “Maybe that’s the improper choice coming into this sport. Maybe I ought to have been extra aggressive to attain. I used to be simply attempting to play it the correct method, attempting to play it the correct method and let the sport come to me.
“Maybe shoot more, maybe just be smarter, catch the ball closer to the rim, play faster,” he continued earlier than taking an extended pause. “Catch and shoot more. I’ll try to figure it out by watching film tomorrow.”
Kyrie Irving solely added 16 factors on 6-of-17 taking pictures from the sector and Bruce Brown led the Nets in scoring with 26 factors. Seth Curry added 10 and Nic Claxton and Patty Mills mixed for 25 off the bench. There was even a Blake Griffin sighting late within the third quarter, an eight-minute stretch that featured excessive power, hustle and grit from the veteran All-Star who had been banished to an finish of the bench function.
None of it issues, although, if Durant doesn’t shine, and up to now the Celtics have discovered the solutions to each query his distinctive mix of measurement, IQ and scoring capability creates.
And now, it’s nearly time to interrupt out the broom for an annual spring cleansing at Barclays Center.