Two Eastern Conference contenders went head-to-head as the Boston Celtics hosted the Brooklyn Nets on Christmas Day. Both teams were coming off season-opening wins, and looking to measure themselves early on in the season. The contest was extremely close through the first 24 minutes of action, and the Celtics took a three-point lead into the halftime locker room. But in the third quarter, Brooklyn blew the game wide open. Led by Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, the Nets outscored the Celtics by 12 points in the third quarter, and then they never looked back. They added to their lead in the fourth quarter, and ultimately walked away with an impressive 123-95 win.
With the win, the Nets move to 2-0 on the young season, while the Celtics slip to 1-1. The All-Star duo of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving led the way for the Nets, as the two combined for 66 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. Caris LeVert also added 10 points off the bench for Brooklyn. Jaylen Brown paced the Celtics with 27 points and eight rebounds, and Jayson Tatum added 20 points and eight boards of his own. It’s still super early in the season, and both teams still have a long way to so, but it’s not a stretch to think that these two teams could ultimately end up facing off against each other in the postseason.
Here’s a look at three key takeaways from the Nets’ win over the Celtics.
1. The Nets are the real deal
Everyone was drooling over the Nets after their opening night win over the Golden State Warriors, and rightfully so. Brooklyn looked downright dominant in that contest. However, the victory came over an injury-riddled Warriors team that was without its second and third-best players. In other words, you could only stretch the conclusions drawn from that game so far. But, Brooklyn came out and backed it up on Christmas Day by besting a Celtics squad that was in the Eastern Conference finals just a few months ago. The duo of Durant and Irving has been as good as advertised, if not better, and the two combined for 56 points on Christmas Day — a great gift for Nets fans everywhere. It wasn’t just Durant and Irving though, and that’s what makes the Nets so impressive. Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, DeAndre Jordan, and Jarrett Allen all found ways to contribute, too. Brooklyn is deep and talented, and as long as they’re able to stay healthy, they’ll be a major problem in the Eastern Conference this season.
2. Kevin Durant looks like… Kevin Durant
There was a lot of speculation about how Kevin Durant would look after missing an entire season after suffering an Achilles injury in the 2019 Finals, especially now that he’s on the wrong side of 30. Through two games, the verdict is pretty clear. Kevin Durant looks like, well, Kevin Durant. He dropped a smooth 22 points on 16 shots in the season opener, and he followed that up with a 29-point, 16-shot performance against the Celtics. Durant has shown that he still has the ability to get virtually anywhere he wants on the court, and he obviously still possesses the length to rise up and shoot over basically any defender. As the season goes on, Durant will likely only get more comfortable with being back out on the floor, and that’s a scary thought for the rest of the league.
3. The Celtics clearly miss Kemba Walker
The Celtics started the season shorthanded, as they are without the services of Kemba Walker, who is sidelined indefinitely with lingering knee soreness. And while they were able to pull out a win over the Bucks to start the season without Walker, it was clear how much they missed him against the Nets. The Celtics were able to keep it close early in the contest, but once Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving started cooking for Brooklyn, the Celtics struggled to keep up offensively, and ultimately the Nets were able to pull away.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were both solid for Boston, but outside of them, the Celtics needed another player out there capable of making plays and producing points at a high level. When he’s healthy, Walker provides that. Gordon Hayward also provided that, to an extent, but he left to sign with the Charlotte Hornets over the offseason. Until Walker comes down, the Celtics will need to pick up the scoring slack collectively. The good news for them is that they won’t have to play a team with the firepower of the Nets every night.