BOSTON — While Kyrie Irving had to deal with the sound of 19,156 fans at TD Garden, Kevin Durant seemed to have a simpler task. All he had to do as one of the greatest scorers in NBA history was make his way through the five Celtics on the floor.
But in Game 1 of the best-of-seven first-round series, it seemed as if 19,000 defenders were surrounding him, hands flailing from all angles every time he put the ball on the floor, bodies appearing from behind or next to him as he attempted to shoot. And when it was over — the cursing, the comeback and the Celtics’ celebration of a 115-114 win over the Nets — Durant was left to consider his 9-for-24 shooting and six turnovers. But he already was turning the page to Wednesday’s Game 2 and a chance for redemption.
“Nothing to overthink with Kevin Durant,” Irving said. “We know who he is. We know he’s going to go back and watch film, prepare. It may have looked like a bad shooting night, but I know his second half looked a lot better than his first shooting-wise. But he was doing all the little things and we know how high his expectations are for himself. So we’re not going to overthink it. But we definitely got to look ourselves in the mirror as a team and see where we can control the little things, the little details that help us be able to close out the game.”
If Durant is the most effective scorer in the game, the Celtics have emerged as the best defensive team in the NBA this season, with an emphasis on team. At times it was 6-4 Marcus Smart, who was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year on Monday, crowding him. Then it was Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum, Derrick White or Al Horford. And most times it was more than one of them until his final shot of the night — a long three-point attempt with the shot clock running down and Tatum rising up with him to force a miss — that left the door open for the Celtics’ last-second heroics.
“Yeah, I feel like teams are going to be designed to take away some of my catches and my opportunities,” Durant said. “I’ve been dealing with it for a while, so it’s on me to keep playing through it. I feel like I got some good looks there in the first, second half. They didn’t fall. Maybe rushing a little bit, my fundamentals weren’t down, trying to beat, trying to play before the help comes. Sometimes I rushed my shots. By looking at the game and seeing where I can be better individually and shifting my mindset a bit as I stop the game, see where I go from there. It’s a journey. Looking forward to the next game.”
It was oddly difficult for Durant at the start, and maybe that was due in no small part to the game plan put in place by Celtics coach Ime Udoka, who was a Nets assistant last season.
“Follow the game plan and don’t leave somebody on an island,” Tatum said. “Obviously, you’ve got to take pride in guarding one-on-one, but listen to the guys behind you. Everybody is helping. It’s not just one guy contesting. It’s probably going to be two guys. Try not to give him any clean, easy looks. That’s all you can ask for.”
“Just make everything that he gets, he has to work for as hard as can be,” Smart said. “The dude is 7 foot with a shot like that. It’s hard to really stop him. But you just have to make it as hard and tough the whole game as you can and just give him different looks, and that’s what we did.”
But no one with the body of work of Durant, who with 23 points on Sunday moved into eighth place on the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring list, is going to be held down for long. He was calm afterward and looking ahead to Wednesday.
Asked what he learned from this loss, Durant said, “That they still sting even though we know it’s a series. They sting and you want to move past it, but it’s going to be good to look at the game and see where we can get better. We understand this is a series and we have another opportunity to come in here and get a ‘W’ on their home floor. We’ve got to try to move past this one. Still, look at film from this one, but move past it and get ready for Game 2.”
Irving had at least three incidents with fans during Game 1 in which he either made obscene gestures to the crowd or shouted profanity at them. He then used profanity repeatedly in his postgame interview session.
Irving, who was fined $25,000 in January for inappropriate language toward a fan in Cleveland, said his piece Sunday. And while the NBA has not put a price tag on that yet by imposing a fine on the point guard for his profane words and actions, it is expected to come ahead of Game 2.