Through two games — both losses for the Nets — this first-round series against Boston was the worst basketball of Kevin Durant’s career.
It’s up to Steve Nash to help his star, as Brooklyn prepares for Game 3 on Saturday. Although Durant doesn’t see it that way.
“It’s up to me to finish it and figure it out. I don’t expect my teammates or the defense to give me anything. I just have to go out there and play,” Durant said.
“I just came back and played. Get ready to work, keep grinding. …I’m going to be expected to be aggressive throughout this series, so check out some of this stuff and watch the movie and keep playing.
Durant has a ton to figure out, and quickly.
He would go into Game 3 shooting just 31.7% with a dozen turnovers and eight assists, the first time in his career that he would hit under 40% and commit more than six turnovers in consecutive games.
“It’s not all about Kev. I take responsibility. Everyone on our team takes responsibility,” said Kyrie Irving. “I have to get him to his places and make the game a lot easier. I believe I can do that with the help of my other coaches, having a game plan to attack that defence.
So far, Celtics coach Ime Udoka – a former Nets assistant – has had a better game plan than Nash, his former boss. And it was the defense that attacked Durant, who went 0 for 10 with four second-half turnovers on Wednesday. This is the highest number of unsuccessful attempts in half of his career.
“Ime knows us very well. He coached our staff last year, so he has keys to the treasure chest he entrusted to those guys,” Irving said.
” It helps. It’s beneficial,” Udoka admitted on Thursday. “You get to know them a little more intimately when you train them and are with them for a season. So me being a defensive guy, it’s beneficial to be with these guys and see the things that other teams have done against them, some ideas that I have in my head. Just being with him teaches you a little more about the intricacies of their game.”
The Nets are the most isolated team in the league. But Boston’s heavy defense lures teams not only into iso but also into bad one-on-one habits. The Nets need to stop falling into this trap and improve their sad off-ball movement from Game 2.
“They just wrap whoever is on the nail. The person in the middle and the one on the nail is just standing there. The supporting cast must be better for them. Cut, get off the wing and just be ready to shoot the ball,” said Bruce Brown, who – along with Seth Curry and Patty Mills – needs to space the floor better.
“Yeah absolutely. Sometimes we can cut the wing so [Durant] can have more space to get to their spot instead of having to shoot two people each time. … But we are going to find out.
Udoka largely understood Durant. The Celtics brutalized him off the ball, blew up plays before they started and shielded him from the face.
And when he got the ball back, there was a defender just sitting on the nail, right in the middle of the free throw line, between either side of the key, waiting for him to arrive to use their length.
“They play a simple defense, change everything, then you have the same length as them. They basically play zonal, so it’s easy for all players,” Durant said. “So when you simplify the game, it makes it easier for the players, and that’s what Ime did.”
Udoka learned how to slow Durant during his days as a Spurs assistant. But he gleaned a lot more during his year alongside him in Brooklyn and stole the Bucks’ playoff game plan.
“It’s the start of your defense that doesn’t allow him to get it, as simple as that sounds. The less touches he has the better obviously,” Udoka said. “And last year on the Milwaukee series, PJ Tucker really got into his body, was physical, refused touches, refused takes. These are things that have worked so far.
Celtics big man Al Horford added: “It’s definitely an advantage for our group because they just have a good idea of the things they want to do and the way they want to play.”
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