4/13/22 by Jackson Tolliver
After Tuesday night’s play-in game, the Celtics first-round opponent was decided: the Brooklyn Nets.
Brooklyn came out strong against the Cleveland Cavaliers after a massive performance from former Celtic Kyrie Irving, who shot a perfect 9/9 from the field in the first half. The second half saw the Cavaliers close the gap, as the Nets ultimately won by seven points after being up by 20 after the first quarter.
Cleveland’s ability to turn the game into a contest is a promising sign for the Celtics. The Cavaliers were coming off a 3-8 stretch to end the season, and were missing their All-Star center, Jarrett Allen, who was out with a finger injury. The Nets, often perceived to be a super-team, showed defensive weaknesses down the stretch and an inability to build momentum without their star duo on the court.
The fears for the Celtics are obvious. The Nets beat the Celtics handedly last year when the seeding was reversed, and Kyrie Irving and the Celtics have one of the worst player-fans relationships in the league. In the playoff matchup last year, a Boston fan notoriously threw a water bottle at Irving as he exited the court. The last time the Nets were in town, the fans erupted in boos every time Irving touched the ball. Needless to say, Irving will be looking to quiet the crowd.
There is also, of course, Kevin Durant, considered by many to be the best player in the NBA and will most likely go down as a top ten player in history. He dropped 37 his last time at TD Garden, but hopefully the defensive talent of the Celtics will be able to contain him.
Another looming issue is the injury of Celtics center Robert Williams III, who has been their defensive anchor throughout the season. Losing Williams provides the Nets with increased confidence in the paint, and automatically gives them a wider range of options on an already lethal offense.
However, there are of course many reasons to be optimistic about the Celtics odds. Sitting at the second seed, Boston will have home court advantage, opening the series at the Garden this Sunday. The Celtics have the best defense in the NBA, and their new offensive schemes should allow Tatum, Brown and Co. to stuff the scoresheet against a lackluster Nets defensive side. Jayson Tatum dropped 54 points last time out against Brooklyn, and he should be able to continue this success.
Tensions will be high, and fans should expect a solid matchup between these two eastern conference powerhouses. For Celtics fans and for Kyrie Irving, this will be more than just a game.