Kevin Durant has been in enough NBA playoff games to know that the last thing you want to do is give your opponent any extra edge or added incentive to defeat you.
It’s understandable then that Durant was less than thrilled Tuesday night to hear that teammate Bruce Brown had just given some bulletin-board material to the Celtics, whom the Nets will open the playoffs against in Boston on Sunday. In a news conference after the Nets defeated Cleveland, 115-108, in a play-in game to clinch the No. 7 seed, Brown was asked what he thought the key would be to slowing down Boston in the series.
“We can’t let Jayson Tatum get 50,” Brown said. “We got to be physical with them. Now they don’t have Robert Williams, so they have less of a presence in the paint, and we could attack Al Horford and Daniel Theis. So them not having Robert Williams is huge.”
Durant, who spoke to the media after Brown, immediately asked reporters what Brown had said. When told, he rolled his eyes.
“All right, man. That’s caffeine pride talking. Take some before the game," Durant said. "They got two dudes that can do the same stuff. It ain't going to be that easy, I tell you that.”
Brown, who is from Boston, might be excused for his exuberance. Durant, however, went on to explain why Brown’s comments bothered him.
“We respect our opponent,” Durant said. “We don’t have to talk about what we’re going to do to them. I just don’t like that. But that’s just how Bruce is. He comes in and he keeps the same energy throughout the season. But we don’t need to say [expletive] like that. Let’s just go out there and hoop.”
Durant knows that it is going to take everything the Nets have to get out of this series. This is not the same Celtics team that the Nets rolled over in five games in the first round of the playoffs last season. Since Jan. 29 the Celtics have been the hottest team in basketball. After getting off to a tough start, Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart have found their rhythm and the team has boasted the NBA’s top net rating, offensive rating and defensive rating.
When it comes to the Celtics, there is something that Durant, Brown and the rest of the Nets agree on: The biggest key to the series is finding a way to contain Tatum, who scored 54 points against the Nets on March 6. The Celtics star averaged just under 27 points and has been mentioned — though not at the top — in the MVP conversation.
“That’s a tough question,” Durant said when asked how the Nets should approach Tatum. “He’s one of those players where you’ve just got to play hard and see what happens. He’s just so talented, skilled and efficient with what he does. You’ve got to just play hard and I expect us to.”
Added Kyrie Irving: "It starts with really slowing JT down. He has a great feel playing against us, and everyone else around is very complementary to that attack. And when JT's getting doubled, Marcus Smart is pushing the pace. He’s playing well, hitting shots. Al Horford's dominating the offensive rebounds, and Daniel Theis filling in for Robert Williams, it’s big.”
NETS VS. BOSTON
Game 1: Sunday, at Boston, ABC, 3:30 p.m.
Game 2: Wednesday, at Boston, TNT, 7 p.m.
Game 3: April 23, at Nets, ESPN, TBD
Game 4: April 25, at Nets, TBD
*Game 5: April 27, at Boston, TBD
*Game 6: April 29, at Nets, TBD
*Game 7: May 1, at Boston, TBD