The stars were not always shining bright in Game 2 between Brooklyn and Boston.
The Nets ‘Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant and the Celtics’ Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum did not have their best offensive games.
But Brown and Tatum had just enough shine and just enough help from their teammates to extract a 114-107 victory in another competitive, high-intensity game that seems more like a conference finals matchup rather than a 2-7 first-round series.
Brown shook off his offensive struggles through three quarters and scored 10 points in the fourth as the Celtics took control, outscoring the Nets 29-17 in the final quarter. Boston, which trailed by 17 in the first half, didn’t take its first lead until 7:49 of the fourth quarter.
Brown finished with 22 points, and Tatum had 19 points, 10 assists and six rebounds.
The Celtics own a 2-0 series lead, and Game 3 is Saturday (7:30 pm ET, ESPN) in Brooklyn.
Celtics limit Durant again
Durant finished with 27 points, but 18 came on free throws. He was just 4-for-17 from the field – after 9-for-24 in Game 1. The Celtics’ game plan is not a secret. “We have to do our part and continue to be aggressive and physically defensively and not sit back and wait for him to be in attack mode,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said.
From Marcus Smart to Al Horford, the Celtics have used several defenders on Durant in Game 2. On some possessions, the Celtics were so physical, Durant bounced around like a pinball, and Celtics defenders had their hands poking at the basketball every time Durant caught it.
Durant was 0-for-10 from the field in the second half, and four of his six turnover led to nine Celtics points.
The Celtics have made a tactical decision. Let Bruce Brown (23 points), Seth Curry (16 points) and Goran Dragic (18 points) score. Just don’t let Durant score 30 or more with high efficiency.
Others helped Celtics win
Tatum and Brown were just OK offensively – a combined 14-for-32 with seven turnovers – and Brown really needed to turn on his offense in the fourth quarter to shoot 50% for the game.
While Tatum and Brown didn’t have their offense in the first three quarters, others picked up the scoring. Horford had 16 points, six rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block and is helping the Celtics compensate for Robert Williams’ absence as he recovers from knee surgery.
Center Daniel Theis had 15 points, forward Grant Williams had 17 points and six rebounds off the bench and reserve guard Payton Pritchard scored eight of his 10 points in the fourth quarter.
Irving takes break for food and fluids
Irving is observing Ramadan and fasting (no food or fluids) from sunup to sundown. With 3:09 left in the first quarter, Irving headed to the locker room for snacks, including fruit, and fluids.
Irving, who had a special performance in Game 1 with 39 points, had just 10 points on 4-for-13 shooting in Game 2.
Celtics fans vs. Irving
The NBA fined Irving $ 50,000 for obscene gestures and profane language directed at fans in Game 1.
There is a history between Boston and Irving, who played for the Celtics and intimated he would re-sign with them in 2019. Instead, he signed with the Nets during free agency.
It appeared Irving refrained from obscene gestures and profanity. Celtics fans, however, serenaded Irving with appropriate boos and inappropriate “(Expletive) Kyrie” chants.
Offense stalls for Brooklyn
With Irving and Durant, Brooklyn has offense. But could the Nets score enough against the league’s No. 1 defense? They can’t score enough. After scoring 114 points in Game 1, the Nets had 65 in the first half of Game 2. Brooklyn shot 24-for-40 (60%) from the field in the first half, including 50% on 3s.
But once that hot shooting extinguished, Brooklyn’s offense faltered. Players movement and ball movement was solid in the first half. Not so good in the second half as Irving disappeared.
The Nets shot 30.5% in the second half, went scoreless for a five-minute stretch early in the fourth quarter and had just six points in the first eight minutes of the fourth.
Part of that is Boston’s defense. Part of that if Brooklyn’s stagnant offense. It’s difficult to win when your two stars (Durant and Irving) go a combined 1-for-17 in the second half.
Will Ben Simmons make his season debut?
Guard Ben Simmons, who the Nets acquired from Philadelphia at the trade deadline, is working himself back into basketball condition and getting over a bad back.
How close is he to playing? Nets coach Steve Nash said he worked out Wednesday morning, and ESPN reported Simmons is targeting Game 4 for a potential debut.
Nash did not confirm that.
“I don’t think we’re targeting any game,” he said. “We’re trying to see how he develops, how he progresses. That’s something with the recent history since the trade, it’s not been straightforward. While it’s exciting to see him on the floor and see him make progress, I don’t think any of us are saying, ‘It’s imminent.’ We’re going to sit back and support him and see how far he gets and if he’s able to play, that’d be great. We have not penciled in anything or made any conclusions. “
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