BOSTON (CBS) — Brad Stevens continues to gush about the Brooklyn Nets. The Celtics have the tall task of trying to slow down one of the NBA’s most dangerous offenses in their first-round matchup with Brooklyn, and they know that they have very little room for error in that quest.
Stevens was quick to point that out again Thursday night as he discussed the upcoming series Brooklyn’s three-headed monster of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden. He didn’t go as far as he did Tuesday night, when he essentially crowned the Nets as this year’s champ, but he still had plenty of nice things to say about Boston’s next opponent.READ MORE: Celtics Host Six Players For Pre-Draft Workout, Including Auburn's Sharife Cooper And Texas A&M's Jordan Hall
Mostly, he said that if his team wants to have any chance against this powerful and deep Nets squad, the Celtics are going to have to be as close to perfect as possible. That all starts on the defensive end and trying to keep Brooklyn’s star trio from doing anything extraordinary, which means they have to make even the simplest of things difficult on the Nets — or at least try to.
“It’s easier said than done,” said Stevens. “They’re the kind of team that you’re going to have to challenge everything and take care of the basketball; sprint to take away any easy basket, take away easy baskets on cuts and rebounds. If they’re able to add a bunch of easy buckets that way, through their energy and motor and lack of playing the right way on our part, then all those other shots they make become too much to overcome.
“You have to first and foremost control the controllables as best you can, and guard the guys the best you can,” he said, adding another Stevensism to the Celtics lexicon.
“We have to be very smart about how we play. You want to maximize possessions; you can’t throw away five possessions in a row against these guys, because that becomes a 12-0 run really quickly,” Stevens added. “They’re so potent when you’re in front of them and challenging everything, that if you let them have easy things because of a lack of doing our jobs well, that’s when you’re not going to be able to maintain touch. If you maximize every possession, you have a chance to win and you’re always in it. That’s the task.”READ MORE: Jayson Tatum Reportedly Commits To Play For Team USA In Tokyo Olympics
Given the plethora of talent that Brooklyn’s trio possesses on the offensive end, there will be times when the Celtics can’t do anything to stop them. Probably a lot of times, actually. Kyrie is going to make absurd layups against any defense, Durant is going to be able to shoot over anyone from just about anywhere, and Harden can do both — all while threading the needle like a master couturier.
But Boston cannot let those lead to any leakage in their defense, because if that dam breaks, any chance of Boston keeping things close will be flushed away.
“There will be tip your cap moments where you’re gonna have to say ‘nice shot’ and go down the other end and score,” said Stevens. “You’re not going to hold these guys to 90 or whatever; these guys are a high-octane offense. You have to guard as hard as you can and then go down and score. Your offensive possessions have to be very purposeful.”
The Nets were second in the NBA at 118.1 points per game during the regular season. So what would be a good defensive night in Stevens’ mind? Would he consider it a success if the Celtics keep the Nets to 115 points?MORE NEWS: Jayson Tatum Snubbed From All-NBA Honors, Misses Out On Big Pay Bump
“If we score 116,” Stevens said, likely sporting the biggest grin possible behind his mask.