Celtics-Nets Game 1 Takeaways: Defense and Tatum Save the Day

4/14/22 by Jackson Tolliver

The Boston Celtics began their first-round playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday, and the matchup lived up to the expectations. After Kyrie Irving led the Nets out of a 15 point hole in the fourth quarter, Brooklyn led by one point and had the ball with over 30 seconds on the clock. After a double team on Kyrie Irving and fantastic defense from Jayson Tatum to force Kevin Durant to miss a three point jumper, the Celtics stayed calm, as Marcus Smart found Jayson Tatum for the winning layup as time expired.

Photo Courtesy of MGN

It was a fantastic finish for the Celtics, and is uncharacteristic for them in recent years. The Celtics have been known to take poor quality final shots, but yesterday’s final seconds demonstrated patience and smart playoff basketball. The Celtics proved that they can come up big in the clutch, and it provides good omens for the future of this series and their playoff run overall. Here are the top three takeaways from game one:

  1. Kyrie Irving is on a mission: When Kyrie Irving played in the Garden this season for the first time, it was Kevin Durant who shined, scoring 37 while Kyrie only scored 19. It seemed as if the Celtics fans’ constant booing and haggling was getting to him. However, yesterday Kyrie proved that it will only fuel him to new heights. Kyrie went nuclear in the fourth quarter, finishing off a 39 point performance that almost cost the Celtics the game. The Celtics fans and Irving have a notoriously rocky history, and it was on full display yesterday, as Kyrie pointed the middle finger at fans and mocked them crying at one point. If Kyrie keeps playing at this level, the Celtics will certainly have their hands full.
  2. Defense was good, but the Celtics need to capitalize: Durant had six turnovers in the game and shot 9/24 from the field, anf 1/5 from three. An uncharacteristic performance from arguably the best player in the NBA, but it was largely due to the Celtics ability to lock him up. Everything was going Boston’s way to start off the game, but they couldn’t capitalize offensively to rack up a major lead. Once the Celtics rallied later in the game and pulled away, they got lazy and let Kyrie Irving pull Brooklyn back. Boston needs to make the most of every possession and take advantage of a weak Brooklyn defense. This series could easily go down to wire, and the Celtics need to keep a high energy level from start to finish.
  3. 3. The Celtics can survive without Rob, but he will be a huge help: Center Robert Williams III has been out for almost a month now as he rehabs a partially torn meniscus. He is expected to return at some point in this series or the next, but a big question mark was if the Celtics would be able to maintain their defense without him. The answer came in the form of a dominant performance by Al Horford, who dropped 20 points and 15 rebounds. Daniel Theis, however, had a rough game, shooting only 1/6 from the field. Williams will return and help the Celtics in their potential title run, but for now, it seems as if Boston fans shouldn’t be too worried about his absence because of Al Horford.