It was easy to see why the Boston Celtics were being written off heading into their first-round NBA Playoff matchup against the Brooklyn Nets.
They were not only going to be without their greatest inside presences in the series, but they were also up against probably the best offensive tandem the NBA has ever seen – if not ever.
Nonetheless, the Celtics have a 2-0 series lead after two games, thanks in large part to their strong defensive play.
Sure, the Celtics have offensive threats in the form of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, but this is a team that has prioritised defence throughout the season.
They had the greatest defensive rating in the NBA during the regular season, and the team’s “best” perimeter defender was named Defensive Player of the Year.
The Celtics have also “kept” the Nets to the 8th best offence in the playoffs through two games. That should be considered a resounding triumph for a club with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant at the helm.
And, perhaps more importantly, in Game 2, the Celtics wreaked havoc on Durant and Kyrie. Against Durant and Kyrie, Boston had to come back from a 17-point deficit.
That appears to be practically impossible on the surface. The Celtics, on the other hand, have Durant second-guessing himself, and Kyrie has had one of his worst games of the season in Game 2.
Durant is shooting 31 percent from the field and 35 percent from 3-point range through two games.
He’s scoring 25 points a game, but he’s only taking 21 shots. When you compare that to his regular-season numbers, it’s clear how well the Celtics are defending him.
Kyrie had an epically bad performance in Game 2 after a 39-point outburst in Game 1. Overall, he scored 10 points on 31 percent shooting from the field. He was also 0-1 from three-point range.
The Celtics are proving that the “other” side of the court still matters in a series that was largely perceived as defence vs. offence.
And they’ve already shown that, even without perhaps their greatest defender (Robert Williams), the Celtics will be a difficult (if not impossible) team to beat in the postseason.
The Celtics are a legitimate chance to win it all this season, and they’re doing so by focusing on defence first.