By two games – both net losses – 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 just finish it and find out. I don’t expect my teammates or the defense to give me anything. I just have to go out and play,” Durant said.
“I just got back and I’m playing. Get ready for work, just keep grinding. … I’m expected to be aggressive throughout the rest of this series, so control some of that stuff and watch the movie and keep playing.”
Durant has a lot to figure out, and fast.
He’ll come into Game 3 with a shot of just 31.7 percent with a dozen turnovers and eight assists, the first time in his career that he’s hit under 40 percent and committed more than six turnovers in consecutive games.
“It’s not all up to Kev. I take responsibility. Everyone on our team takes responsibility,” said Kyrie Irving. “I need to get him to his seats and make the game a lot easier. I think I can do that with the support of my other coaches if I have a game plan to attack that defense.
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 10-0 with four turnovers in the second half on Wednesday. It’s the most attempts without a make in either half of his career.
“Ime knows us really well. He coached our staff last year, so he’s got some keys in the treasure chest that he’s telling these guys,” Irving said.
“It helps. It’s an advantage,” Udoka admitted on Thursday. “You get to know them a little better when you coach them and you’re with them for a season. Being a defensive guy it’s an advantage to be around these guys and see what other teams have done against them, some ideas that I have in mind. Just by being around him, you learn a little bit more intricacies of their game.”
The Nets are the most isolated team in the league. But Boston’s Switch-heavy defense is luring teams into not just iso, but bad one-on-one habits. The Nets need to stop falling into this trap and improve on their woeful Game 2 off-ball move.
“They just pack up whoever is on the nail. The person in the middle and whoever is on the nail just stand there. The supporting actors have to be better for them. Cut, get off the wing and just be ready to kick the ball,” said Bruce Brown, who – along with Seth Curry and Patty Mills – needs to spread the ground better.
“Yes, in any case. Sometimes we can cut the wing like this [Durant] can have more space to get into its place instead of having to shoot over two people every time. … But we will find out.”
Udoka largely figured out Durant. The Celtics snapped him off the ball, blew up actions before they started and fitted him with face shields.
And when he’s got the ball, a defender just sits on the nail, right in the middle of the free-throw line, between each side of the key, waiting for his arrival to take advantage of their length.
“You play a simple defence, swap everything out and then you are the same length as them. They’re basically playing Zone, so it’s easy for any player,” 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 down Durant during his time as Spurs assistant. But he’s racked up a lot more in his year at his side in Brooklyn, stealing from the Bucks’ playoff roster.
“That’s the beginning of your defense of not allowing him to have it, as simple as it sounds. Of course, the less touching he has, the better,” said Udoka. “And last year on the Milwaukee series, PJ Tucker really got into his body, was physical, refused touch, refused catch. Those are things that have worked so far.”
Celtics big man Al Horford added: “It’s definitely an advantage for our group because he just has a good sense of what they want to do and how they want to play.”
https://nypost.com/2022/04/21/kevin-durant-knows-he-must-be-better-against-more-physical-celtics/ Kevin Durant knows he has to be better against more physical Celtics