BOSTON (CBS) — Do the Celtics have any shot against the Nets? No, no they do not.
Maybe if Jayson Tatum keeps dropping 50 a night, and maybe if Jaylen Brown is given a cool Winter Soldier arm to replace his currently healing wrist, and maybe if Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden miss every shot they take in the upcoming first-round matchup, then maybe the Celtics have a chance. But realistically, they have no real shot at winning the series.
The Celtics were vastly outmatched by the Nets during the regular season, with Brooklyn taking all three matchups. Kyrie was an assassin with a vendetta against his former team, and that will continue. Durant and Harden will both be by his side this time, which was not the case when the Nets met up with Boston during the regular season, so the most we can hope for is that the Celtics make the series somewhat competitive and steal a game or maybe two.
For that to happen, it’s time for Boston’s other guys to put on their big boy pants and really help this team against one of the NBA’s best squads. Tatum will get his, or he’ll be commanding so much attention that others will have their chances. Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart need to step it up, and Tristan Thompson has to channel his Cavalier days, especially if Robert Williams is out.
But that is just the start. Really, Boston having any chance depends on the others in the supporting cast having the series of their lives. As Brad Stevens said Tuesday night, the Celtics are going to have to play great together to have any shot against Brooklyn.
He was brought in at the deadline with expectations to knock down threes and open the floor for others. He’s had his moments, but they have been just moments. A COVID scare when he first arrived followed by an actual bout with COVID certainly did not help. But Fournier was advertised as a “Hayward Light,” which he’s been on occasion, but now he now needs to do that each and every night.
Fournier was just 3-for-11 in the play-in win over the Wizards, and only hit two of his six threes. Boston is going to need a lot better than that, but at least Fournier found other ways to help against Washington. He moved the ball well and finished with four assists, and he pulled down six rebounds. He isn’t lazy on offense and runs around like a madman, and his ability to hit shots means the Nets will have to follow him.
But really, he needs to start doing what Danny Ainge brought him here for, and that’s hit shots.
The rookie has made quite the impressive turnaround throughout the season. He went from being firmly entrenched on the bench to earning a spot in Stevens’ rotation down the stretch. He doesn’t hit as many shots as many would like to see out of one of the best shooters in last year’s draft, but he brings some energy and hustle, moves the ball well, and contributes on defense. With so many talented wings on the Brooklyn roster, the Celtics are going to need a whole lot of all those things this series.
The Celtics don’t need Langford to do much, only what he does best. That is go to the basket, and play some impactful defense. He doesn’t have to be a star, just fill his role when Stevens calls his number.
Of course, big series from the previously mentioned trio isn’t going to be enough for the Celtics to stun the Nets. That is going to take everyone playing at an All NBA level and then some. Brooklyn also has a pretty good collection of “other guys” that vastly outweighs Boston’s group.
But if Fournier, Nesmith and Langford step up, it could be the difference between a sweep and a somewhat competitive series, and in a longer view, help them turn into legit contributors for the Celtics in the future.