BOSTON, MA - MARCH 06 Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets drives to the basket past Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics during a game at TD Garden on March 6, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

This matchup might be the most anticipated for this year’s playoffs. Once again the Nets and Celtics meet up again just like they did last year. Things will be a little different around this time. Just like last year this is a 2-7 matchup but the roles are reversed. Brooklyn is the one that had to play in the play-in tournament to secure the seventh seed while the Celtics waited for their opponent.

It seems like the Nets have gone through everything this season. They had a great start going 23-9 making their way to the top of the conference. Kevin Durant missed 27 games due to injury. Kyrie Irving was limited due to vaccination requirements in Brooklyn and only played 29 games this season. James Harden got tired of the team by the middle of the season and was traded to Philadelphia. During the absence of Durant the Nets went on an 11 game losing streak which made them fall into the eighth spot.

This might be the scariest seventh seed the league has ever seen. Irving and Durant are two of the best scorers ever and are two of the best isolation players in the game today. According to Synergy tracking Durant and Irving both score better than a point per possession on at least five isolation possessions per game. Offense is not the problem for this Nets team it’s their defense.

One thing to keep an eye on is the minutes for Durant. Over the last 10 games he averaged 40 minutes. In three of those games he played all of the second half. Nash keeps Durant out there so long because the team doesn’t generate offense that much without him. If this is a six or seven game series watch for fatigue.

Defensively they rank 20th this season. They can get away with playing good defense 20-24 minutes against a team like the Cavaliers but that won’t hold up against the Celtics. They have guys that can score at will and play make for each other. No team scored efficiently against the Nets like the Celtics did, who also won three out of the four against them this season. The Nets will need more out of others to step up. The player that can do that for them is Bruce Brown. In their last two games Brown had a double-double against the Cavaliers and scored 21 points and pulled in seven boards against the Pacers. Consistent play from him will help a lot.

To begin the season there was a lot of worry up in Boston. They were 20-21 and they held the 10th spot in the conference. By the time they played 50 games in the season they were 25-25. Something clicked for this team and they did not look back since. They were the best team in the league by far, going 26-6 and ranked first in both offensive and defensive efficiency.

There two stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown will lead the way for this team. Both average over 23 points per game. Marcus Smart is in contention for defensive player of the year. The only hit they take is there will be no Robert Williams who is still recovering from injury. They still have depth down low with veterans Al Horford and Daniel Theis. Addition from midseason trade Derrick White has been great scoring and playmaking wise.

The Celtics have been playing like a well-oiled machine and could be a dark horse to take the east. They’ve had 18 wins by 20 or more points. One thing that can hold the Celtics back is how they play down the stretch in the clutch. With the game within five points in the last five minutes they went 13-22.

My Pick:

Durant is the best player in the world and there will be times the Celtics will not be able to stop him. The Nets have picked up big wins in places like Miami and Milwaukee this season especially after the all-star break, but the Celtics have been a better team down this last stretch of the season. The Celtics defense is better and will get stops when they need them the most. They have more depth than the Nets in what can be a long series. This will be Tatum’s chance to shine when the lights are the brightest. Celtics in 7.