NBA Playoffs are finally here, and it should be a great one.
The Brooklyn Nets clinched the second seed a few days before the end of the season, severing themselves a series against the first winner of the Play-In tournament.
In a 118-100 victory, the Boston Celtics beat the Washington Wizards, led by an awe-inspiring game by Jayson Tatum, dropping 50 points.
This solidified a Nets vs. Celtics round one match-up that is set to start Saturday, May 22nd.
The schedule for the first round of the NBA playoffs: pic.twitter.com/g1nYGgc7Am
— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) May 20, 2021
Playing against his former team, Kyrie Irving, is the biggest storyline of this match-up with the Celtics. Irving was a Celtic for two seasons after demanding a trade out of a LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavilers.
The media constantly criticized Irving for many different reasons in those two seasons, one being that it seemed like he wanted out of Boston from the start. Contract negations between Irving and the Celtics seemed futile as he waited out his contract to join the Nets. Irving missed the playoffs in his first season due to injury while the team went to the Eastern Conference Finals. His second season looked like he had given up midway through a playoff series and eventual departure for Brooklyn.
That offseason, Irving left Boston for Brooklyn and has played the best two seasons of his career, averaging 27.4 points in his first season as a Net, and joining the 50-40-90 club this season, along with averaging 26.9 points.
On top of the media saying Irving did not want to be in Boston from the start, other rumors about his effect in the locker room cycled through NBA media. The media constantly tried to push the narrative that Irving was at fault for all of the Celtics’ struggles.
This appears not to be accurate; even though Irving acknowledged, he struggled to be a leader for the team, his former teammates seemed to apricate still him lining up to talk with him after a game earlier this season.
Now to look beyond the storylines of the series, the on-court product has some potential to be exciting. Tatum is growing into an elite-level scorer, leading the Celtics in scoring this season, averaging 26.4 points per game. On top of that, Kemba Walker, who was signed as a replacement for the leaving of Irving, is not the same player he was with the Charlotte Hornets due to injuries, but still had a solid season, despite a slow start putting up 19.3 points per game.
Marcus Smart has proven himself to be an elite-level perimeter defender, making two All-Defensive teams. The only issue is the Nets have two elite scoring guards. Evan Fournier could be an offensive x-factor, but he has yet to fit smoothly into the lineup with him acquired at the trade deadline.
However, this season did not turn out the way the Celtics would have liked, as they were one of the favorites to be competitive for a possible Eastern Conference run before the season officially started. This struggle primarily came with the team being hit hard by COVID-19. As of April 6th, the team led the league with players missing time due to COVID Protocol.
Their luck hadn’t gotten any better, with their second-best player, Jaylen Brown, going down with a wrist injury, forcing him to miss the rest of the season, with the news coming less than two weeks before the playoffs were set to start. On top of that, starting center Robert Williams hurt his toe in the play-in game against the Wizards, making him questionable for starting the series against the Nets.
The bad fortune of the Celtics will most likely continue as the Nets get healthy right in time for the playoffs. James Harden has played in two of the last three games for the Nets, making his return after missing a month. Kevin Durant has been officially back for a few weeks now and has consistently performed to his usual elite levels.
All signs point to the Nets winning these series with ease, with the series probably ending in five games, but six at the max. The Nets might use this series to get the big three reps together to prepare for the more challenging road ahead.
If Tatum wants to score 50 points a night, that will make the series a lot more interesting, but the Nets have three guys that can score 50 as well.
Featured Image: MassLive/AP Photo/Adam Hunger