Kyrie Irving meets his former team on Christmas Day when the Brooklyn Nets travel to the TD Garden to take on the Boston Celtics. They won’t be singing “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” when Irving returns to Boston. The Celtics have proven they’re better off without the perennial All-Star guard, and they’ll be looking to hand him and the Nets their first loss of the season. It’ll be a tall task with Kevin Durant serving as Irving’s new partner in crime. The duo dismantled the Golden State Warriors in Tuesday’s NBA opener. Meanwhile, the Celtics knocked off the Milwaukee Bucks in a dramatic 122-121 victory on Wednesday.
The same old Durant
Did anyone really believe Kevin Durant would take a step back this season?An Achilles injury wasn’t going to rob him of his expert marksmanship. He dropped a subtle 22 points on the Golden State Warriors in his long-awaited return to the floor. There was also a flash of the phenomenal two-way player he developed into during his time with Golden State as he added three steals and one block.
Kyrie Irving led the team with 26 points to complete the 125-99 blowout.
You don’t need me to tell you the duo of Durant and Irving are going to be a problem for the rest of the NBA. They’ll be an even bigger problem if they shut down the noise of a James Harden trade and keep the roster as it is currently constructed. As the Celtics will learn on Friday, there isn’t a bench in the league deeper than the Nets’ right now.
The Celtics were one of the better defensive teams in basketball last season, but there’s no answer for Durant. He’s an offensive assassin that’s going to get his buckets regardless of the defender. Irving also won’t have to worry about a one-on-one matchup with Boston’s star guard Kemba Walker, who is still sidelined with a knee injury.
That doesn’t mean it’ll be a cakewalk for Durant and company.
The Celtics are actually a tough early test for the new-look Nets. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are stars in their own right, and they’re talented enough to put up an offensive firefight. Look at what they did to a Milwaukee Bucks team that ranked No. 1 overall in defensive efficiency last season. They are clearly not a team people should be overlooking.
Tatum has ice in his veins
The game was on the line, and the Celtics were only down by one point. Jayson Tatum wanted the ball in his hands (the stars always do). He had two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo right in his grill before taking a step back from behind the 3-point line and dropping in a rainbow off the backboard.Count it.
The Celtics didn’t have Kemba Walker on the floor, but they still managed to knock off the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference from last season. You’re always going to have a chance to win big games when you’re hitting 18 3-pointers and forcing 16 turnovers. The Celtics might need more of that effort on Friday when the Nets come to town for a visit.
There are no answers defensively for a player like Durant. So Boston will have to lean on their scrappy playmaking abilities to steal this game. They have to hustle for turnovers and fight for loose balls. Rebounding could be a serious issue for them this season. They were undersized and went minus-15 on the boards against Milwaukee. The same will be the case against a Nets team with multiple big men capable of crashing the boards, including Durant.
This game will be all about knocking down shots to hang with the Nets offense. The Celtics got a huge lift off the bench from Jeff Teague on a night when Marcus Smart’s shots weren’t falling. That will have to continue if they have any hope of upsetting the Nets.