Boston Sweeps Brooklyn

Boston Sweeps Brooklyn

As I watched the Boston Celtics score at will against the Brooklyn Nets and watched Kevin Durant struggle to play like the basketball God that he proclaimed himself to be, I could only think of the clip from the 90s movie “Mrs. Doubtfire” where Robin Williams jumped out with his broom in hand and started aggressively sweeping up the living room in his family’s house. It’s a classic comedy scene that was just as funny as the performance the Nets gave in this first round matchup. Yet, it doesn’t fully capture the magnitude of how momentous a sweep this was. To fully compare how big this sweep was for the Celtics, you must picture one of those huge Zamboni looking street sweepers used to clean up the streets in big cities like New York. I am referring to the big industrial street sweepers which require you to move your car early in the morning before a scheduled street sweeping day or else you end up with a big ticket on the windshield and some chips in your car’s paint job from the flying debris flung around by those 6 rotating brooms beneath the big truck. Boston was the industrial street sweeper while Brooklyn was mere debris.

All of the credit goes to the lockdown defense crafted by the brilliant Nigerian-American head coach Ime Udoka, deployed effectively by the law firm of Smart, Tatum, Brown, and Williams. As an assistant coach for the Nets last season, Udoka gained intimate knowledge of how to defend Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. As an assistant coach for Team USA during the 2019 FIBA World Cup and Tokyo Summer Olympics in 2021, Udoka was able to forge a relationship with Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown who ended up advocating for Udoka’s hire as the head coach in Boston. It’s a good thing that they did because he was the perfect coach to guide them through a tough first round matchup that many were picking the Nets to win. Udoka’s hire was criticized based on the uneven and inconsistent way his team started the campaign in November and December, but since January his squad has flipped a switch that made them arguably the best team in basketball and statistically the best defensive team in the NBA. This dichotomy of improvement shows exactly why Udoka was the right man for the job.


Remember, the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks (who many see as the default best team in the East because of their injured opposing player paved road to the title last season) tanked their last game of the regular season to avoid the #2 seed to avoid playing the projected #7 seed Nets. This forced Boston to win and take the #2 seed, thus avoiding the risk of dropping to #4 requiring them to play Toronto in the first round. That potential series would have seen Jaylen Brown and Al Horford staying home for the road games due to their unvaccinated statuses in that potential matchup.

The Boston Celtics utilizes a suffocating brand of defense. They switch everything and put pressure on the perimeter with long agile defenders all over the court. The C’s funnel the ball and force the ball handler to go to perceived weak spots in their defense and then close down the space in the blink of eye. This paralyzes their opponents who aren’t sure where to go next with the ball because the opening they veered into is now a trap. It’s a stifling defense that would extinguish most star players that function primarily in an isolation offense. If your team has two non-shooters on the floor next to that isolation happy star- forget about it. Pack it up and go home. Which is exactly what Brooklyn did. The Nets had no chance whenever Nick Claxton was on the floor next to Durant. But the Nets are a diminutive and poor rebounding team, so Claxton had to play.

Kevin Durant had to work for everything that he got in this series. By the time he got through the first 20 possessions he was already exhausted because of the work rate he had to commit to in order to just get his shot off. The Celtics were rotating bodies after bodies after bodies on the Slim Reaper Durant. It got even worse once Robert Williams took a Senzu Bean or got a blood transfusion from Marvel’s Wolverine and came back from injury weeks ahead of schedule. The one shot the Nets had at winning a game in this series was in the instant classic that was game 1. Unfortunately for Brooklyn, poor transition defense in clutch time by the Nets lost them the game. Marcus Smart executed a nifty pump fake by followed by a dribble drive drawing two defenders to him. Catching a glimpse of Tatum cutting backdoor while Smart fed Tatum the rock and he performed a quick pirouette layup at the buzzer, shooting the Nets through the heart. Kyrie failed to perform well the rest of the series because Boston shut him down and made Durant a high volume low efficiency scorer. Bruce Brown was Brooklyn’s clear 2nd best player in the series after game 1 and that was by Boston’s design.

So. the Celtics will await the Bucks in the 2nd round which should be a fun series but is one that I favored the Celtics to win even before Middleton sprained his MCL. Now that Middleton will be absent, I fully expect Boston to handle the Buck’s three-point shooters and go through. However, it could make for a more interesting wide-open perimeter based playing type of series with the Bucks bombing away from 3 point land to make up for the scoring void left by Middleton. On the other side of the bracket I anticipate that the Heat will get past either the 76ers or the Raptors with their own stifling defense and setup a rematch of the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals between the Heat and Celtics.

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