For the first time since they brought a professional football player out to The Hamptons as part of to their pitch for him to join their professional basketball team, the Celtics made things mighty uncomfortable for Kevin Durant.
With a player (or two) in his face throughout every second of his team’s four-game sweep at the hands of the Celtics, Durant was straight-up suffocated by the Celtics. Even a 39-point effort in his club’s Game 4 loss, which came with eight misses from three-point range for the 33-year-old star, wasn’t enough to prolong Brooklyn’s inevitable misery.
“Give credit to the Celtics, first off,” Durant said in his postgame media availability. “I mean, they’re an incredible team. They got a chance to do some big things the rest of the playoffs. They played amazing.”
Durant finished the series with a 38.6 field goal percentage and 21 turnovers. That 38.6 field goal percentage is Durant’s worst in any series in six years, and his third-worst among the 30 series he’s competed in his NBA career, while this first-round showdown marked the first time in Durant’s career he averaged more than five turnovers per game in a series.
The Celtics mixed up their attacks on Durant. He struggled to handle Jayson Tatum in a power-on-power, star-on-star one-on-one battles for the ages, and Grant Williams also played some downright stifling defense on Durant. Their efforts certainly went beyond just those two, both in terms of personnel and numbers, as the Celtics’ smothering help defense was a consistent throughout this series, and it even extended beyond just Durant.
“There’s a lot of stuff that may factor into why we lose, but they were just a better team,” Durant said of the Celtics. “They played that way. This is the best defense in the league, right? I mean, for the whole series, we shot over 50 percent, 40 [percent] from the three. But turnovers, offensive rebounds, straight-line drives really killed us.
“Standing in front of their guys, they had bigger guys that we’d look up and Seth Curry or [Goran] Dragic is boxing out a seven footer. They’re playing hard, but they’re just smaller, you know? A lot of bigs out on the perimeter on the switch, guarding a guard. So there’s a lot of things that happened throughout the series that just didn’t work out in our favor.”
It was a four-game beatdown that’s served as a reminder that the Nets, who went an entire stretch run (and series) without Ben Simmons available, may need to do more to keep up with an East that could be experiencing a changing of the guard.
“I see what’s going on around the league,” Durant said. “The league is growing fast. There’s so many great players. We gotta be right there with the pack if we want to be a contending team. So, we got a lot of work to do.”
PHOTOS: Celtics take on Nets in Game 4 of 2022 NBA playoff series
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. He has been covering the Bruins since 2010, and has been a member of the Boston chapter of the PHWA since 2013. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.