The #2 Brooklyn Nets jumped out to a 2-0 lead against the #7 Boston Celtics, but the series heads to Boston for two games, where the Celtics hope the parquet floor of TD Boston Garden and its rowdy fans will lift them to a much-needed victory to avoid an 0-3 hole.
The Nets won Game 1 in Brooklyn by 11 points. In Game 2, the Celtics were blown out by 22 points.
The short-handed Celtics entered the playoffs without Jaylen Brown, who suffered a season-ending injury in the closing weeks of the season. The Celtics listed Kemba Walker as questionable with a sore knee, but Walker said he will play in Game 3.
|Game 3: #2 Brooklyn Nets (2-0) vs #7 Boston Celtics (0-2)|
- Tip Off: 5:30pm ET
- Location: TD Garden, Boston, MA
- Point Spread: BKLYN -8.5
- Total: 227 o/u
- Money Line: BOS +305 / BKLYN -360
- Series Line: BOS +1750 / BKLYN -4200
The Celtics are +8.5 home dogs for Game 3. You can back them at +305 on the money line if you think they’ll pull off a big upset in front of their home crowd.
The Nets covered in the first two games, where the point spread hovered between -8 and -8.5.
Ever since LeBron James injured his ankle in late March, the Nets have been the consensus favorite to win the title. The Nets are currently +190 odds to ship the 2021 NBA championship according to the most-recent update by DraftKings.
Brooklyn Nets: Big 3 plus some surprise defense
While the Big 3 gets most of the attention in Brooklyn, sharpshooter Joe Harris quietly lit up the Celtics in Game 2 for 25 points. When the Celtics double-teamed any of the Big 3, they found the open guy on the perimeter. In this case, it was Harris wide open for a corner 3-pointer. He knocked down seven 3-pointers of 7-for-10 shooting from beyond the arc.
“Whenever the ball moves, we’re very difficult to defend,” said head coach Steve Nash. “We can score in isolation, but the more the ball moves, we knock the first domino down, and then the teams chase, and we’re excellent in those situations.”
Rough two games, Harris averaged 17.5 ppg while shooting a sizzling 56.4% from 3-point range.
But it’s the Brooklyn’s defense that caught everyone’s eye. In two games, the Nets forced the Celtics to commit 27 turnovers.
The Nets also did a stellar job on Jayson Tatum, who entered the postseason on a high note after exploding for 50 points in the Seven-Eight Game in the play-in tournament. In Game 1, Tatum scored 22 points. In Game 2, the Nets held Tatum to only nine points in 3-for-12 shooting. Durant and Blake Griffin tag-teamed Tatum with smothering defense.
“When KD’s locked in, engaged enough, he can be an unbelievable defender,” gushed Harris.
The Big 3 all averaged 20-plus points in the first two games. Durant leads the Nets averaging 29 points and 10 rebounds per game, followed by Irving’s 22 ppg and Harden’s 20.5 ppg.
Boston Celtics: Anyone help out Tatum?
The Celtics were aggressively defending Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving. The plan was to force the ball out of the Big 3’s hands and make another of the “Other 2” on Brooklyn beat them. The gamble failed and Harris torched them for 27 points in Game 2.
“That’s the argument against blitzing, right?” said Boston coach Brad Stevens. “Because then you blitz one of those guys, or you double-team one of those guys, and the ball just swings to another guy that’s a great shooter, and they’re good at finding those guys. And obviously, when Harris is going like that, they become exceptionally difficult to stop.”
“We just have to play harder on the defensive end,” said Marcus Smart. “We lost one of the best shooters in this league multiple times. That’s just lapse, breakdown. Those are things we can control. We know they are a great team, but we’ve got to go out there and play. And it starts on the defensive end.”
Cutting down on turnovers is another huge factor. Executing better shots is another. The Celtics need someone other than Tatum, Walker, or Smart to score. Evan Fournier (13 ppg) started in place of Brown, but he struggled defensively.
Someone has to get hot off the bench from their second unit whether it’s Robert Williams III (9.5 ppg), Jabari Parker (5.5 ppg), Aaron Nesmith (2.5 ppg), or Payton Pritchard (1.0 ppg).
Check out more of OG’s coverage of the 2021 NBA Playoffs.