3 Takeaways: Familiar mistakes and coaching costing Nets in first two games vs. Celtics

Nets Boston Celtics
Boston Celtics guard Derrick White (9) blocks a shot by Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) during the third quarter of game two of the first round of the 2022 NBA playoffs at TD Garden.
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The Brooklyn Nets trail their best of seven series with the Boston Celtics 0-2 after the first two games at TD Garden. The big story from those first two contests has been Kevin Durant’s shooting struggles, but there have been other aspects of the Nets game that has been noticeable throughout the series so far.

The Nets failed to close out the game on Wednesday night after allowing a 17 point lead to slip away, which has been an all too familiar trait during the regular season, and Steve Nash just doesn’t seem to be able to match up against his former assistant and now head coach in Boston, Ime Udoka. That has put Brooklyn in a hole that they hadn’t planned on being in after the first two games.

Now the series shifts back to Brooklyn, where the Nets haven’t exactly built much of a homecourt advantage during the regular season. Below are three takeaways after the first two games of the series between the Nets and Celtics.

[Complete First Round Coverage of Celtics-Nets Series]

Nash being outcoached

Hiring Steve Nash two years ago to lead the Nets may come back to be one of the most pivotal decisions for the organization in the Big 3 era, and the impact has been playing out through the first two games of the series. That’s not a good thing either for Brooklyn.

Nash has been thoroughly outmaneuvered during the first two games of the series and returned to the team’s long-running talking point of how much longer everyone in green and white has played with one another, compared to the players in black and white. While that may be true, the Nets have not adjusted to what the Celtics have thrown at them and that falls on coaching. And at the moment Nash doesn’t seem to have an answer.

“I think in hindsight you could always come up with something,” Nash said when asked about what adjustments he could have made. “But there’s no guarantee that whatever your adjustment is is going to work, so it’s 20-20 looking backwards. I think our group was in a good position both periods, but we just didn’t play our best basketball the second half. We were out-physicaled a little bit and we turned it over unnecessarily at times and we missed some good looks.”

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash coaches against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the third quarter at Barclays Center.Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Celtics, on the other hand, have adjusted to what the Nets have done and Udoka has formulated a plan that has effectively shut down Durant for two straight games, and held Kyrie Irving to just 10 points in Game 2. He has orchestrated a team that has been one of the best defensive squads in the NBA and turned around a slow start to the year.

“Ime knows us really well,” Irving said. “You know, he coached on our staff last year, so I think he has some keys in the treasure chest that he’s telling those guys.”

With the Nets now down two games, the focus is on Thursday morning turned to Nash and his coaching ability. The questions about his ability to coach Brooklyn to a championship is going to continue to come under scrutiny as the days progress.

All Too Familiar Script

Stop if you’ve heard this story before. The Nets built up a sizable lead during a quarter or half of play, only to watch Brooklyn take their foot off the gas in the third quarter and have their opponent come back. It happened far too frequently during the regular season, even as the Nets worked their way back from the bottom half of the play in tournament pool to get the seven seed.

But the question was always going to be, what happens if the Nets can’t shake that during the playoffs against one of the best teams in the NBA. Sure, having that happen against Atlanta, Indiana or Cleveland is survivable, but when it happens against the Celtics you get what happened in Game 2.

“We just weren’t scoring at the other end,” Bruce Brown said. “I just think our physicality took a step down in the second half.”

While Boston chipped away in the third, they completed the comeback in the fourth, with a 23-4 that saw the Nets go three minutes without a basket. Steve Nash also mentioned the physicality or lack thereof it in the second half.

“I agree in part with that assessment with Steve in terms of our intensity. But us as players on the court, we’ve got to control that and rise to the occasion. Just simple as that,” Irving said as well.

Still, that’s something that was talked about during the regular season, but still hasn’t been resolved.

Ben Simmons
Brooklyn Nets forward Blake Griffin (2) and guard Ben Simmons (10) on the court before the start of the first round against the Boston Celtics for the 2022 NBA playoffs at TD Garden.David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Nets need Ben Simmons

It’s clear that the Nets can use all the help that they can get and with Simmons seemingly ready to go it would be wise for them to get him on the court as soon as they can. Simmons isn’t known for his shooting, but his defensive prowess and his ability to facilitate the offense will be a huge boost for Brooklyn.

Brooklyn has kept Simmons’ status a deeply guarded secrete even as reports surface almost daily on his potential return, but it appears he’ll be back by one of the two games at Barclays Center. If they can get him on the floor for Game 3, even in very limited minutes, that could help the Nets.