After a tough regular season full of ups and downs, filled with key injuries, the Kyrie Irving vaccine controversy and a massive roster shake-up, the Brooklyn Nets clinched the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference.
That means a date with the Boston Celtics in the first round of the 2022 National Basketball Association playoffs.
It will be a rematch of last year’s first round, when Brooklyn beat the Celtics in five easy games.
This year, the scenario will be reversed, since the Celtics were then the seventh seed.
Most consider Boston the favorite to win this series, but it only has a slight edge over the odds, giving Brooklyn a huge opportunity to advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Why are the Nets about to cause an upset?
3. The Nets have the best player in the series
Just as Jayson Tatum has played, especially in Boston’s hot second-half sprint of the season, the best player on either side is clearly Kevin Durant.
As he nears the third anniversary of his harrowing Achilles injury in the 2019 NBA Finals, Durant has put up incredible numbers on the season: 29.9 points per game and 6.4 assists per game while shooting 51.8% from the field and 38.3% from 3-point range.
Yes, he’s only played 55 games this season, but those numbers are still beastly.
Durant is also still a top-tier defender, as evidenced by his 0.9 steals and blocks per game this season.
He can go with the best players in the NBA and win games on his own or at least give his team a good chance to win, like he did last year.
In Game 5 of the 2021 Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Milwaukee Bucks, Durant scored 49 points, 17 rebounds, 10 assists, three steals and two blocks while shooting 16 of 23 in a 114 win. -108 in Brooklyn.
this performance by kevin Durant will never be forgotten, scoring nearly 50 points against the bucks in game 5 pic.twitter.com/TIYVtKE6Ro
— GT ❃ (@IL0VELATlNAS) August 8, 2021
Then in Game 7, he scored 48 points and came within a fingernail of sending the Nets to the Conference Finals.
2. Brooklyn has the most clutch player in the series
Over the past few years, Irving has arguably been considered the NBA’s most dangerous player at money time.
He seemed to cement that reputation by hitting the game-winning 3-pointer in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals to elevate the Cleveland Cavaliers to the World Championship.
Irving has an elite ability to create his own shot, either on the perimeter or penetrating the hoop, and he might be the most skilled ball handler ever.
This season, he averaged 27.4 points per game, which is tied with his career high, while shooting 41.8% from 3 points, which is a career best, as well as 5.8 assists per game.
With New York Mayor Eric Adams rescinding a COVID-19 vaccine mandate that was in effect in all five boroughs, Irving can now return to being a full-time player and refocus his attention on his team.
He came out in Tuesday’s playoff against the Cavaliers, hitting every shot he took in the first half.
— DukeLights (@duke_lights) April 13, 2022
1. Brooklyn’s defense could improve
Defense has always been the Nets’ bone of contention.
But there may be signs of improvement on that front.
Over the final 15 games of the regular season, Brooklyn had a defensive rating of 113.1, which was ninth in the NBA during that span.
He held the Cavaliers to 108 points and just under 45% shooting in Tuesday’s play-in contest, and while it’s fair to say those aren’t impressive numbers, considering the Cavs are a anemic offensive team, they are a step forward. the right way.
If the Nets don’t allow the Celtics to reach 120 points in any game in this series, they will put themselves in a position to win the series.