The Nets get to sit back and wait to see who they’ll face in the playoffs. They’ll watch the Celtics and Wizards go against each other in Tuesday’s play-in game.
Knowing how the Nets are, good luck getting a straight answer about who they’d rather face. They’ll likely give the politically correct answer: they don’t care. But who should they want to face? That’s a lot easier.
Boston. And its not about all the tasty side stories and juicy hot takes.
It’s not personal; it’s strictly business.
Based on current form, health, matchups — almost every conceivable metric, really — the Nets are better suited to make short work of the Celtics than the Wizards.
“The Nets are going to gentlemen sweep either one of those teams,” said ESPN analyst Kendrick Perkins, a proud former Celtic himself. “But having Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal go against the Brooklyn Nets that would be must-see TV. Russ plays with that tenacity, he’s so ferocious. When I think of Russ, he’s so intimidating that he reminds me of Mike Tyson.
“He may not been the greatest boxer of all time, but he was the most ferocious. When Russ steps on the floor, whether people admit it or not, he’s ferocious. People are intimidated by his presence because of how dominant he is. So if I had to choose, I’d love to see Brooklyn and the Wizards go at it. But neither of those teams have anything to impose a will to beat Brooklyn in a seven-game series.”
Styles make fights, with Kevin Durant and his Nets prohibitive favorites to KO either team. But at least the Wizards have a puncher’s chance.
Boston is stumbling into Tuesday’s play-in having lost five of its last six, including to the Knicks in the regular-season finale when they sat their top seven players. They’ve also lost star Jaylen Brown to wrist surgery, all three prior matchups against Brooklyn, and enough mojo that there’s talk about Brown and Jayson Tatum tuning out Brad Stevens.
That’s a team ripe for a knockout.
Washington? Winners of 17 of its last 23? That’s the counterpunch that can catch you slipping.
“Well, if Perk doesn’t want to watch the Celtics, I don’t want to watch them either,” ESPN’s Jalen Rose said. “They were down double-digits in almost 55 percent of their games. No Jaylen Brown for the rest of the year. Obviously, Tatum is an outstanding player, but I’d much rather see the Wizards and Brooklyn.
“Just the storylines galore, and just the talent, too, watching players like Kyrie [Irving] and Beal go back-and-forth with James Harden. And then Russ obviously has this relationship with KD, and we’ll start talking about the burner accounts. And when KD returned and people calling him cupcake and stuff like that. The storylines if it was those two teams competing against each other.”
Sure, the backstories would be juicy, digging into Durant and Westbrook’s tumultuous Thunder history, and any trash-talk between the two.
Durant bolted OKC because he reportedly didn’t think he could win playing there with Westbrook, and the two famously went at it in their first meeting afterwards. Anybody who thinks it’s all in the past should recall Durant initially left Westbrook off his list of top-5 teammates while on the Million Dollaz Worth of Game podcast.
But even with Beal not at 100 percent, he scored 25 points on a gimpy hamstring Sunday. Another three or four days’ rest after Tuesday night’s game gets him even healthier … and more dangerous.
With Westbrook finishing the season averaging a triple-double (22.7 points, 11.7 assists and 11.5 boards) — and being a downhill nightmare even for the best defenders — this backcourt could give Brooklyn fits.
Irving and Harden might be better defenders than given credit for, but there is a reason the Nets lost the season series to Washington. They allowed an average of 126 points to the Wizards, the fourth-most they’d allowed to any team.
Sure, many would revel in seeing Irving play in front of Celtics fans for the first time since bolting Boston for Brooklyn. But wanting to face the Celtics instead of the Wizards shouldn’t be personal, but about the business of basketball.
And Boston is the better business. Even if the Nets don’t say it.
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