By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Celtics’ prize for winning Tuesday night’s play-in game is a postseason matchup with the Brooklyn Nets. It’s a series that will have no shortage of juicy storylines throughout.READ MORE: Yankees Beat Red Sox 8-3, Cut Lead To 1
We’ll start with how the Celtics match up against Brooklyn and its All-Star trio of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving. It’s not good for Boston. Not good at all.
Even with Jaylen Brown, the Celtics would have been giant underdogs in the series. Without their two-way All-Star, the series has potential to be a laugher. Boston lost all three regular season matchups against the Nets, and none of them were all that pretty.
The Celtics lost 123-95 in Boston on Christmas Day, and then dropped both matchups in Brooklyn, 121-109 and 109-104. Irving was the only Nets star to play in all three of those games, and he pretty much had his way with his former team, averaging 30.7 points. After burning sage along the court during the preseason, he went out and scored 37 against the C’s at TD Garden on Christmas, and he followed it up with a 40-point outburst in Brooklyn later in the season.
Given his unceremonious end to his two years in Boston, Kyrie will be feeling it this series. And so will Boston fans when the series shifts to Boston, with the potential for 100 percent capacity inside the Garden. All the sage in the world won’t save him from the vitriol that Green Teamers will send his way.
But it probably won’t bother him much either, and if it does, the Nets can rely on Durant or Harden or both. Durant remains one of the best players in the league, and Harden is one of the most dangerous offensive players there is — even if he has only played three games since the end of March.
If three studs aren’t enough, Brooklyn has a stellar supporting cast in Blake Griffin, Landry Shamet, Joe Harris and former Celtic Jeff Green. Long story short, the Nets are really, really good.
After Tuesday’s play-in win over Washington, Brad Stevens said that Brooklyn is the most talented team assembled since he joined the NBA in 2013.READ MORE: Chargers-Chiefs Preview: Kansas City 'Shouldn't Be In Shootouts Every Week,' Says CBS Sports' Charles Davis
“We know that challenge; those guys are the best of the best. Going into that, if I’m a general fan of the NBA, I have a hard time seeing them lose,” he said, pumping up a team that needs no pumping up. “We’re going to have to play great and play great together, be really sound on both ends of the floor. … It will be a fun challenge to go up against the best.”
On the other end of the spectrum there are the Celtics, a team built off Danny Ainge’s Great Brooklyn Heist, when he turned an aging Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce into a draft pick haul that eventually turned into Tatum, Brown and, for a few seasons, Irving. For a few years, it looked like Brooklyn would be haunted by that trade for years to come. What a difference a few superstar players can make.
At least Tatum is around for this series, and he should continue his superstar level from Tuesday night. Boston really doesn’t have anyone else to take the torch, so it will be all Tatum all the time with a little bit of Kemba Walker sprinkled in. It doesn’t bode well for a series victory, but maybe Boston can steal a game. Maybe.
“We have to play hard. Those guys are super talented, one of the better teams in the league with great players,” Walker said of the upcoming matchup. “We have to play hard and execute on offense. We have a few days, we’ll watch some film and see what we can take advantage of – if possible.”
“It’s going to be tough without JB,” Tatum said of the absence of Brown. “We know how good of a team they are. Everybody knows the guys they have over there. But I’m excited to get this opportunity. Getting to the playoffs my fourth year in a row, I won’t take that for granted. We’re excited, it’s the playoffs. Just get ready for the next game.”
Tristan Thompson was brought in to be a much-needed veteran presence for these kinds of postseason battles. He said that film study is going to be extremely important as Boston preps for this David vs. Goliath matchup.
“KYP — know your personnel,” he said. “Know the moves they like to make cause those things matter in the playoffs, every possession counts.”MORE NEWS: SportsLine Week 3 NFC East Picks: Eagles Will 'Keep It Close In A Division Matchup,' Says SportsLine's Larry Hartstein
The outcome of the series may not be pretty for the Celtics or Boston fans, but it should at least be entertaining. And if it’s really bad for Boston, at least it should end rather quickly.