The basketball zings from participant to participant when the Celtics run their offense, and it discovered Grant Williams as the primary half was winding down in Game 4 of Boston’s first-round playoff sequence towards the Nets on Monday night time at Barclays Center.
Williams had oodles of area to line up his 3-pointer, which he swished. The Nets nonetheless had time for one final heave earlier than halftime, and the inbounds move went to Kyrie Irving with 2.1 seconds remaining. But relatively than launch a shot from past half-court, he merely dropped the ball for a referee to retrieve as time elapsed.
It was a small second — insignificant, maybe — but in addition revealing in its personal approach. Where was the desperation? Why not seize each alternative? Sure sufficient, because the second half performed out, the Nets ran out of possibilities.
The Nets have been anticipating to vie for N.B.A. championships, and maybe some day they may. But that day shouldn’t be now. Another abbreviated postseason look ended on Monday when the Celtics defeated the Nets, 116-112, to finish a four-game sweep. It was a becoming finale to a disjointed season for the seventh-seeded Nets, who spent months biking by way of a motley solid of characters. They have been undone by accidents and absences, by a mishmash roster that would not unearth a coherent model of basketball, and, lastly, by a superior opponent that put its suffocating clamps on two of the planet’s finest gamers.
The Celtics produced the league’s top-ranked protection in the common season, and so they proved it was no fluke towards Irving and Kevin Durant. Ime Udoka, the Celtics’ first-year coach, was one among Nets Coach Steve Nash’s assistants in Brooklyn final season, and he utilized his institutional data all through the sequence.
“They’re an incredible team,” Durant stated of the Celtics. “They have a chance to do some big things.”
Next up for the second-seeded Celtics is the winner of the first-round sequence between the Chicago Bulls and the Milwaukee Bucks. The defending champion Bucks have a three-games-to-one lead coming into Game 5 of their sequence on Wednesday.
The Nets, who had the second-highest payroll in the league this season, will attempt to recalibrate. Nash was employed by the Nets in 2020 with none head teaching expertise, and he has now presided over two early postseason exits. (The Nets misplaced to the Bucks in the Eastern Conference semifinals final season.) Irving, who can turn out to be an unrestricted free agent, has stated that he intends to re-sign with the crew. But he appeared in solely 29 regular-season video games this season due to his refusal to be vaccinated towards the coronavirus.
“I know so many people wanted to see us fail at this juncture, picked us as contenders, and have so much to say at this point,” Irving stated, “so I’m just using that as fuel for the summer.”
Irving added that he needed to stay with Durant, whose contract with the Nets runs by way of the 2025-26 season.
“When I say I’m here with Kev, I think that really entails us managing this franchise together alongside Joe and Sean,” Irving stated, referring to Joe Tsai, the crew’s proprietor, and Sean Marks, the overall supervisor.
The Nets’ mind belief has some work to do in the wake of a turbulent season that was additionally interrupted by a midseason commerce with the Philadelphia 76ers, who acquired James Harden in change for a bundle that included Ben Simmons, Seth Curry and draft picks. Simmons arrived in Brooklyn with a balky again and stated he had been coping with psychological well being points for months. He by no means appeared in uniform.
As for the Harden experiment, it was a bust. Harden, Durant and Irving performed collectively in simply 16 video games over two seasons, together with the playoffs.
“The tough part is that I think we all grew a tremendous amount because of the adversity this year,” Nash stated. “We just weren’t able to benefit from it in this series or at this stage of the season.”
Durant missed 21 video games after spraining his knee in January, then performed heavy minutes late in the common season because the crew scrambled for a spot in the play-in event.
“I think our guys wore down,” Nash stated. “They’re tired.”
And there have been the crew’s extremely publicized absences. Simmons watched the primary three video games of the sequence from the bench in avenue garments. Harden now performs in Philadelphia. And Joe Harris, one of many crew’s finest shooters, had a bone particle faraway from his left ankle in November. When his rehabilitation had a setback, he underwent one other surgical process in March that ended his season.
Against the Celtics, the Nets missed Harris’s size on protection alongside along with his means to stretch the ground as a 3-point menace. As a consequence, the Celtics could possibly be much more aggressive about sticking a number of defenders on Durant at any time when he touched the ball.
“Just bigger and stronger at every position,” Nash stated.
The sequence itself was a swift descent into futility. After the Celtics’ Jayson Tatum gained Game 1 with a buzzer-beating layup, Irving used a number of profanities to explain his interactions with followers who have been sitting courtside in Boston. (The N.B.A. subsequently fined Irving $50,000 for making obscene gestures.) After the Nets obtained thumped in Game 2, Irving heaped reward on the Celtics’ younger core, telling reporters that “their time is now.” And after Durant struggled in Game 3, he sounded baffled at his postgame information convention. What may he presumably do to maintain the sequence alive? He didn’t have any rapid options.
On Monday, Durant sought to be extra aggressive, ending with a game-high 39 factors whereas capturing 13 of 31 from the sector. But Tatum had 29 factors to steer the Celtics, and Jaylen Brown added 22.
“We had high expectations,” Durant stated. “Everybody had high expectations for us. But a lot of stuff happened throughout the season that derailed us.”