As a press field veteran of the ALCS of 2004, when the Yankees made historical past by blowing a 3-0 series lead over the supposedly haunted Red Sox, nothing may ever once more shock me in a best-of-seven world. Surprise me? Certainly. Shock me? No likelihood.
In the hours earlier than Game 5 in Brooklyn, the notion of the Boston Celtics overcoming their 3-1 deficit and successful three straight sudden-death video games to upset the Nets put that reality to the take a look at. Outmanned even when wholesome, the Celtics have been banged up. They didn’t resemble a successful postseason crew all yr and, deep down, a summer time trip might need appeared a extra interesting choice than extending this first-round series any longer than it had to be prolonged.
Boston wanted Jayson Tatum to rating 50 factors to win one of many first 4 video games. Was Tatum able to dropping one other 45 or 50 in Barclays Center on Tuesday night time? Could the Celtics one way or the other put forth the trouble vital to steal a street recreation and pressure Kyrie Irving and mates to endure one other hostile night time in TD Garden?
Yes and sure. But as a lot because the Nets stated all the correct issues about specializing in the Celtics, and ending off a probably harmful opponent, they’re human. And it is human to look ahead on the much more forbidding opponent lurking across the bend.
In different phrases, the Nets have been probably already thinking about the Milwaukee Bucks. They simply weren’t allowed to say so for public consumption.
The Nets do have some postseason historical past with the Bucks, beating them in six first-round video games within the Jason Kidd period. But once I consider Nets-Bucks, I default to my days as a New Jersey fan and school child in 1984, watching with excessive frustration because the refs gave Darryl Dawkins no respect — no less than in my teenage thoughts — throughout Milwaukee’s convention semifinal victory. That gained’t be an issue this time round for Nets followers. Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving are lengthy established stars who’ve earned the advantage of the postseason whistle.
Assuming Brooklyn wins only one extra recreation in opposition to Boston, beginning with Tuesday night time’s Game 5, Durant/Harden/Irving vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo/Khris Middleton/Jrue Holiday needs to be one hell of a series. The Nets gained the primary regular-season matchup at residence with out Irving. The Bucks won the last two games in Milwaukee, over three days, whereas Brooklyn performed with out Harden.
There’s no level speaking anymore concerning the Big 3’s lack of courtroom time collectively (only a dozen video games, together with the postseason, getting into Game 5 in opposition to Boston), as a result of the three stars have performed a mixed 35 NBA seasons, they usually’ve already discovered how to take management of a playoff series. In Game 4, they beat the Celtics with Durant and Irving combining for 81 factors, and with Harden dishing for 18 assists. Their coach, Steve Nash, stated he noticed a willingness to surrender the ball shortly and infrequently that he didn’t see in his crew’s loss in Game 3.
“It’s not going to be the Princeton offense,” he stated, referring to fixed screening and backdoor cuts. But to beat Milwaukee, the Nets will want to transfer the ball as if the rattling factor is on fireplace. The Bucks are a a lot better crew than the Celtics, and if we had to make one final level about chemistry, it will be to point out that Antetokounmpo and Middleton have performed collectively since 2013.
The Bucks are additionally going to be well-rested, having completed their sweep of the Miami Heat on Saturday. “This ain’t the bubble,” the Bucks tweeted after Game 4, a parting shot on the identical Heat who had eradicated them in 5 final yr within the Orlando bubble. Milwaukee wants to win the convention this yr as a lot as Brooklyn does. More than Brooklyn does.
Not that the Nets ought to enable themselves to consider they’re within the first stage of some wide-open window of alternative. They already gave away final yr, and hey, no one’s getting any youthful. The Big 3 may by no means once more be as wholesome as they’re proper now. So even supposing Brooklyn, in Nash’s phrases, “is so far from being fully formed,” the coach emphasised the urgency of the second. “We don’t want to give our players any outs or excuses,” he stated.
First issues first: Nash hoped his crew would come out decided in Game 5 to put the Celtics down for retains. A closeout recreation, he stated, “can be the toughest game.”
The Nets have been anticipated to handle the burden. Their reward for beating the Celtics can be the Milwaukee Bucks, and a brutally tough series that gained’t really feel like a lot of a reward in any respect.