Easy Money Sniper? More like Easy Money Under.
For the second consecutive time following consecutive poor performances from superstar scorer Kevin Durant, Nets head coach Steve Nash vowed to make adjustments without revealing what those adjustments entailed.
And for a third game in a row, Durant struggled against the physicality, length and creativity of a Celtics’ defense that’s had every answer to the test of KD and swallowed the Nets to take an 3-0 series lead with a 109-103 victory at Barclays Center — an arena that sounded more like Boston’s TD Garden with Celtics fans that flooded the empty seats long before tipoff.
It’s become the safe bet since the Celtics put the absolute clamps on Durant in Game 1 of the first-round series against the Nets: Whatever Las Vegas thinks Durant is going to score, the Celtics have made it their life’s mission not to let him get there.
Call them the Durant Rules, and former Nets assistant-turned Celtics head coach Ime Udoka has set them. And now it’s about time to break-out the broomsticks. No team has ever come back from a 3-0 playoff deficit.
If Durant holds the ball, his defender smothers him. If he puts the ball on the floor, a second defender darts his way. If he doesn’t have the ball, one defender denies the pass and another lurks to send help on the catch. And if he somehow battles through all that contact, all that friction between himself and the ball, he’s still got to make a shot, which through three games has been contested by approximately 2.5 defenders per attempt.
“Our physicality and attention to where he is at all times, Not only the initial player guarding him, but the team in general,” Udoka said ahead of Game 3. “Game 2 we were much better as far as taking up the air space, sending him where we want to and then the help coming. Our attention to detail for that has been great, our physicality has been great, and then at times, that wears on people and then they start pressing a little bit, and then he misses some shots.”
If the major adjustment in Game 3 was less involvement for Durant in the Nets offense, it didn’t work. The superstar scorer attempted just 11 shots and made six of them for 16 points. Vegas set the line for Durant’s scoring at 29.5 points to open the day, then bumped it up to 30.5 before tipoff. If you bet on the Celtics’ defense, you made money.
That’s because if you play Durant physically, it throws him off his game. It makes him overthink what’s become routine for him over the course of his NBA career. After shooting 13-of-41 through Games 1 and 2 of the Nets’ first-round series against the Boston Celtics, Durant scored just 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting.
And after tallying 12 turnovers through Games 1 and 2, he tallied five more in Game 3.
For reference, Durant averaged 42 points per game following a playoff loss last season and ended the regular season with the highest point-per-game average at 29.9.
Kyrie Irving only added 16 points on 6-of-17 shooting from the field and Bruce Brown led the Nets in scoring with 26 points. Seth Curry added 10 and Nic Claxton and Patty Mills combined for 25 off the bench. There was even a Blake Griffin sighting late in the third quarter, an eight-minute stretch that featured high-energy, hustle and grit from the veteran All-Star who had been banished to an end of the bench role.
The Nets’ only hope for this series has been their only hope their entire season: Durant going nuclear and setting the tone for the rest of his teammates.
The Celtics have set the tone. They’ve set the rules, and they’ve set the under.
And now the Nets face potential embarrassment on their own home floor if they lose in a sweep on Monday in Game 4.
Source: Berkshire mont