Two of the contenders for the Eastern Conference competed head-to-head as the Boston Celtics hosted the Brooklyn Nets on Christmas Day. Both teams were knocking out season-opening wins, looking to measure themselves early in the season. The competition was very close during the first 24 minutes of play, with the Celtics team leading by three points in the locker room in the first half. But in the third quarter, Brooklyn opened the game wide open. Led by Kevin Durant and Kerry Irving, the Nets beat the Celtics by 12 points in the third quarter and then never looked back. They consolidated their lead in the fourth quarter, eventually losing to a superb 123-95 win.
With the victory, the Nets moved to 2-0 in the youth season, while the Celtics slumped 1-1. All-star duo Kevin Durant and Keri Irving led the way to the Lents, with the two collecting 66 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. Caris Leverett also added 10 bench points for Brooklyn. In the Celtics, Jilin Brown scored 27 points and eight rebounds, with Jason Tatum adding 20 points and eight boards of his own. It’s still great early in the season and both teams still have a long way to go, but it’s no exaggeration to think that these two teams could end up facing each other in the post-season period.
Here’s a look at three key points from the Nets’ win over Celtics.
1. Networking is the real deal
Everyone was drooling at the net after their opening night victory over the Golden State Warriors, and rightly so. Brooklyn seemed to be downright dominant in that competition. However, the win came over the injured Warriors, who were without their second and third best players. In other words, you can only extend the conclusions drawn from that game so far. However, Brooklyn came out and supported him on Christmas Day by beating the Celtics team that had been in the Eastern Conference Finals only a few months earlier. The duo, Durant and Irving were as good as advertised, if not better, and the two put together for 56 points on Christmas Day – a great gift for Nets fans everywhere. It wasn’t just Durant and Irving, which is what makes Nets so impressive. Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, DeAndre Jordan, and Jarrett Allen have all found ways to contribute, too. Brooklyn is deep and talented, and as long as they can maintain their health, they’ll be a big problem at the Eastern Conference this season.
2. Kevin Durant looks like … Kevin Durant
There was a lot of speculation about what Kevin Durant would look like after missing an entire season after suffering an Achilles tendon injury in the 2019 Finals, especially now that he was on the wrong side of 30. With two matches, the referee was very clear. Kevin Durant is like, well, Kevin Durant. He smoothly dropped 22 points from 16 shots in the season opener, and followed that up with a 29-point and 16-shot performance against the Celtics. Durant has shown that he still has the ability to get almost anywhere on the field he wants, and he clearly still has the height to stand up and shoot at any defender. As the season continues, Durant will likely feel more comfortable returning to Earth, which is a frightening idea for the rest of the league.
3. The Celtics are clearly missing Kimba Walker
The Celtics began the season short, failing to obtain the services of Kimba Walker, who was sidelined indefinitely due to a knee ache. And while they were able to beat Bucks to start the season without Walker, it was clear how much they missed him in front of the net. The Celtics managed to maintain close proximity early in the competition, but once Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving began cooking for Brooklyn, the Celtics struggled to keep up with the attack, and eventually the Nets managed to withdraw.
Jason Tatum and Jailyn Brown were both strong for Boston, but outside of them, the Celtics needed another player who could play and produce points at a high level. When he’s healthy, Walker provides it. Gordon Hayward also introduced it, to an extent, but he left to sign the Charlotte Hornets during the vacation period. Until Walker comes down, the Celtics will need to collectively capture the scoring interval. The good news for them is that they will not have to play a team with curling fire every night.