Nets vs. Celtics Game 2 Recap: Lackluster Superstar Effort Results in Another Loss

Coming off a heartbreaking loss in Game 1 against the Celtics, Brooklyn entered Game 2 in desperate need of a win. Instead, the Nets collapsed in the fourth quarter, leading to another tough defeat.

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Recap

Bruce Brown got off to an incredible start. The feisty point guard-turned-forward scored a quick nine points, forcing the Celtics to use an early timeout. Brooklyn took control in the early goings of the game as the full starting lineup contributed in multiple ways. Turnovers were an issue, however, and allowed Boston to claw their way back into the game. After leading by double digits for large portions of the period, Brooklyn led 33-24 heading into the second quarter.

To no one’s surprise, the defensive intensity was at an all-time high on both sides. This resulted in foul trouble early for Boston and Brooklyn with the whistle being blown quite often. In the second period, the Nets consistently spread the ball, regaining their double-digit lead over the Celtics. Goran Dragic was sensational during this stretch, scoring at will and facilitating at a high level for Brooklyn.

What gave the Nets a big advantage in the first half was their dominant presence on the boards. Andre Drummond and Brown crashed the boards constantly, allowing Brooklyn to have multiple second-chance opportunities. Despite some careless turnovers, the Nets played a solid first half of basketball. The Celtics went on a small run to end the quarter, but Brooklyn was in control with a 65-55 lead at halftime.

Things got rough for Brooklyn in the third quarter. Turnovers continued to ruin any momentum the team tried to find as Boston chipped away at the deficit. After the Nets held multiple double-digit leads, it was a four-point game in just a few minutes of play. Boston kept the pressure on Kevin Durant all night long, really getting to him in the third. Durant was swarmed every time he touched the ball, which led to multiple turnovers. Boston eventually tied the game at 81, but Brooklyn went on a bit of a run to close out the period and hold a 90-85 lead with 12 minutes to play.

The fourth quarter was brutal for the Nets. Durant’s turnovers continued while Boston started to dominate the boards. The energy of the arena shifted as the Celtics took the lead–and full command. Neither Irving nor Durant could find a way to get involved, despite the role players putting forward their best efforts. As the game came to a close, Jaylen Brown and Payton Pritchard hit multiple daggers. The Nets simply had no answers for the Celtics as Boston went on a 23-6 run to start the fourth. From there, Boston went on to dominate the final minutes, winning 114-107 and taking a 2-0 lead over the Nets.

Superstars–Not So Super?

Simply put, Irving and Durant dropped the ball in Game 2. Ime Udoka (a former Nets assistant) has put together an impressive defensive scheme, and it is working wonders on both of Brooklyn’s stars. Durant has looked nothing like himself in these playoffs so far; in the second half, Durant was an uncharacteristic 0-of-9 on jump shots. Boston has effectively given Durant hell during the first two games, wearing him down with multiple bodies on every possession.

Quite simply, Durant needs to step up and improve his gameplay moving forward. Not only that, but Steve Nash has to make adjustments on his end. Having Durant act as a ball-handler at the top of the key has not resulted in much success, especially against the Celtics’ defense. Boston continued to attack his handle, and it worked to perfection. Durant turned the ball over a team-high six times, and instead of adjusting, Nash kept things the way they were. When Durant is getting smothered, he has to play off the ball so teammates can create open looks for him.

Irving struggled on Wednesday as well, although his lackluster performance can fly under the radar just because Durant looked so out of sorts. To be fair, Irving was not nearly as involved in the game plan, which is strange considering his sensational Game 1. Irving hardly saw the ball in the fourth quarter, mainly acting as a decoy. If Brooklyn wants to be successful, Irving has to see more action through the game’s entirety.

Final Thoughts

This loss stings for the Nets due to how well the role players performed on Wednesday. Brown was exceptional, scoring 23 points and grabbing eight boards. Goran Dragić put on a show and stepped up when Irving and Durant could not find a groove. If Dragić had been a bigger part of the Nets’ game plan in the second half, the outcome certainly could have been different. Seth Curry also had a solid game, scoring 16 points. Again, it is a shame that neither Durant nor Irving could find their rhythms, because they did have support from the rest of the team.

Another factor to consider is that Ben Simmons could very well make his debut by Game 4. His presence defensively could prove to be very beneficial as the series continues. Not to mention, Brooklyn needs a facilitator. Simmons could provide the Nets with a ball-handler, something they have missed since losing James Harden. Brooklyn needs to figure things out at home on Saturday night, or a first-round exit is imminent.