The NBA playoffs for the 2021-22 season did hit the ground running last Saturday with the edge of seat displays by the teams, both from the East and the West. But one series that promises to light this post-season up, especially in the first round, is none other than the Boston Celtics vs. Brooklyn Nets encounter.
As good as the Celtics proved to be in the regular season, they will have their hands full against a Brooklyn team that will be starting Kevin Durant and old former C, Kyrie Irving. The key to winning this series might just be Jayson Tatum.
JT is ready 💪🏽 pic.twitter.com/7HzdjRljnR— Boston Celtics (@celtics) April 16, 2022
Tatum and Boston must Seize the Day
The 24 year old has tasted playoff success to a certain degree, but has yet to fully hit the height of his potentials, but with how Boston ended the regular season – playing arguably the best basketball in the association – there is no better opportunity than now for Tatum and Celtics to make a legitimate run at the title.
The 17-time Champions went from 11th place in the Eastern Conference to finishing as the number two seed in the playoffs. Their reward, however is a first-round series against the Brooklyn Nets spearheaded by Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. The same team that sent them packing in five games in last season’s first round.
Yet, this year’s Celtics team is different. They have an identity. Boston’s defense has made them a legitimate contender. Something that was not in the equation a year ago.
Paul Pierce on Jayson Tatum:— BostonCelticsForever (@BostonCelts4eva) March 18, 2022
“I really believe he’s going to win a championship in Boston & end up one of the greatest, if not the greatest Celtic to ever play this game.” pic.twitter.com/z2mmpVYAoN
What’s with the Tatum Hype?
It has been a stellar year for the Boston forward. With career-high averages of 26.9 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game, he is in line to push aside Durant for First-Team All-NBA this season. Though when the ball is tipped on Sunday, Durant, being one of the premier forwards in league history, might just as well have his way.
Yet, Tatum and the Celtics would not want it any other way. This has been his path ever since he dunked on King James as a rookie and announced himself to the world.
Last year, the Jaylen Brown-less Celtics entered the playoffs as underdogs and, to nobody’s surprise, were eliminated by the Nets despite Tatum putting up a monster offensive effort. This year, however, Brown is healthy and the entire team is playing with more confidence.
Tatum had a 50-point performance against the Wizards in the play-in game and hung another 50-piece on the head of the Brooklyn Nets in the playoffs. In total, he had four 50-point games last season. A feat that even the great Larry Bird never achieved in Celtics green. Bird scored 50 points four times in his whole career (in the regular season).
Tatum has since added to his repertoire of 50-point outings with two more this season. Most notably, he had a 54-point explosion against – you guessed it – the Brooklyn Nets; his opponents again, as the Celtics kick off their playoff campaign.
If starting center Robert Williams III were not out injured with a torn meniscus, they would probably be heavy favorites heading into Sunday afternoon’s Game 1.
Where does the Pendulum Swing in a Dicey Run?
The fascinating thing about the postseason is that great performances by Hall of Fame-caliber players could end up erasing whatever advantages better-constructed rosters might have conjured in the run leading to the playoffs. We have witnessed this recently with players like Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo carrying their respective teams to championships over better-balanced squads.
However, the Celtics are holistically a better team than the Nets, particularly given how utterly dysfunctional Brooklyn is on an institutional level, but the snag is that the Nets also have two of the three greatest players in this series in Durant and Irving. This is why Tatum, the Celtics’ best player might be the key to them getting their revenge on Brooklyn.
Should Tatum play at the same level he did in the last two games of the last playoff series against the Nets, the Celtics could make quick work of their rivals. If not, then it is not hard to imagine that this is going to be a long, back-and-forth series, with the victor in question not too easy to decipher.
GAMEDAY pic.twitter.com/c1thvA9IQr— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) April 17, 2022