On Saturday, the seventh-seeded Boston Celtics will tip off their 2021 postseason run with Game 1 of their first-round series against the No. 2 Brooklyn Nets. Needless to say, the Cs will need blessings from the basketball gods to make the matchup a competitive affair.
Earlier this week, Celtics coach Brad Stevens admitted that it was difficult to envision Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden’s crew not cutting through the competition like a hot knife through butter.
“They’re the best of the best,” he declared. “As a fan of the NBA, it’s hard to see those guys losing. We’re going to have to play great and play great together.”
Those comments prompted ESPN analyst and Celtics alum Kendrick Perkins to put Stevens on blast. However, Stevens isn’t the only one not shying away from the fact that Boston looks overmatched in the series.
On the eve of Game 1, the Celtics vet recently dubbed the “heart and soul” of the team similarly got real about the task at hand.
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Smart Speaks on Battling Brooklyn
When asked for his thoughts on the Nets series, Marcus Smart conceded that he and his teammates are keenly aware of their underdog status. However, he’s not going to let it affect his play in a negative way.
He has seen it all before, and his job still remains the same.
“We know the odds are against us; we know what we’re up against,” he said, via MassLive. “This isn’t our first time being up against a Goliath of this matter and being the underdog, so we just got to come out there and play. All the cards on the table. No holding back. At this point we have nothing to lose, so go out there and just have fun and do it.”
Although credos like “nothing to lose” and “just have fun” are the mantras of someone who, deep down, probably knows they’re losing, Smart is also aware that teams haven’t always followed the script. Sometimes, the more talented team — the one that is supposed to win — falls flat.
“We’ve seen it — especially in the playoffs, time after time — talent isn’t the one that always wins,” Smart said. “You just got to go out there and play. Now if we just go out there and lay down, then of course that talent becomes a problem even more.”
Celtics D Has Left Something to Be Desired Against Net
Smart noted the importance of playing strong defense against an elite offensive club like Brooklyn.
“Especially in the playoffs, defense becomes a huge factor,” Smart said. “You’ve got to be able to play, you’ve got to be able to stick to your game plan, you’ve got to be able to adjust on the fly, especially against a team like this.”
While there’s little doubt that the two-time All-Defensive Team pick is going to bring his signature tenacity to the hardwood, he made it clear that a group effort will be necessary to slow the Nets down.
“It’s going to take all five guys that’s on the court and whoever comes in. We all have to be locked together.”
Unfortunately, Boston was less than successful in slowing the Nets’ roll during the regular season. Over three games, all of which were Celtics losses, Smart’s squad allowed 117.7 points and 15 three-point makes per contest. They also allowed the Nets to score 20.3 points per game in the fast break.
Clearly, Smart and Co. will have their work cut out for them as they aim to avoid the sweep.
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