The playoffs are finally here, and the Nets’ first-round matchup is brimming with enticing storylines.
A lot of them concern Kyrie Irving.
After all, the seven-time All-Star played for the Boston Celtics before joining forces with Kevin Durant in Brooklyn. Irving spent two seasons with Boston between 2017-19 after beginning his career with the Cleveland Cavaliers. And now Irving and the second-seeded Nets will meet the seventh-seeded Celtics in the opening round of the playoffs.
Game 1 of the series is set for 8 p.m. Saturday at Barclays Center. The Nets, who went 48-24 in the regular season to register their best season by winning percentage in franchise history, went 3-0 against the Celtics during the regular season.
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Kyrie Calls out Celtics Star Kemba Walker
Perhaps the most enticing matchup that Nets-Celtics has to offer is Irving against Kemba Walker, who replaced Irving as Boston’s point guard beginning with the 2019-20 season. Walker was an All-Star last season and averaged 19.3 points per game this season as the Celtics failed to live up to the lofty expectations set for them.
If that’s going to change in the postseason, Boston will need an All-Star performance from Walker against the Nets. And Irving wants to be the one tasked with preventing that from happening.
“You know, we never talk about this. Me and K-Walk — I want that matchup,” Irving said recently, via CLNS Media. “That’s my matchup. I want K-Walk. That’s my big bro. … You know we have mutual respect, but I know everybody wants to see it out of New York [and] New Jersey.
“Every time we play against each other, it’s always a game.”
Walker dropped 29 points in Boston’s 118-110 win over the Washington Wizards in the play-in tournament. Irving, meanwhile, averaged 26.9 points per game during the regular season, but even more impressive was how efficiently he scored those points. The 29-year-old became the ninth member of the NBA’s 50-40-90 club, shooting over 50 percent from the floor, 40 percent from 3 and 90 percent from the free-throw line for the entire season.
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Celtics Coach Weighs in on Challenge That Nets Pose
Boston will be without star guard Jaylen Brown, who averaged 24.7 points in the regular season but recently underwent wrist surgery. But it still has Walker and Jayson Tatum, who scored 50 points against the Wizards on Tuesday.
Still, Celtics coach Brad Stevens is fully aware of the daunting challenge his team faces in the first round. He called the Nets “probably the most talented team that’s been assembled since I’ve been in the NBA.”
“Those guys are the best of the best,” Stevens said, via Brendan Connelly on Twitter. “Going into that, if I’m a fan, a general fan of the NBA, I have a hard time seeing them lose. So we’re going to have to play great, we’re going to have to play great together. And we’re going to have to be really, really sound on both ends of the floor.”
— Brendan Connelly (@BConn63) May 19, 2021
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