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The groups are technically the identical, and so are the highest three gamers — Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving for the Nets, Jayson Tatum for the Celtics — because the franchises face off within the opening spherical of the NBA playoffs for the second straight season.
In any other case, the whole lot is totally different in regards to the best-of-seven, first-round series between the second-seeded Celtics and seventh-seeded Nets that may start Sunday afternoon in Boston.
A yr in the past, the Nets have been the heavy favorites, the second seed with title hopes. This yr, the Celtics are seeded second and anticipated to advance with home-court benefit.
The respective rosters — significantly Boston’s — are nothing like these from final season. For one, standout wing/ahead Jaylen Brown is wholesome for the Celtics after lacking the sequence a yr in the past. Boston’s coach, Ime Udoka, was Steve Nash’s prime assistant in Brooklyn final season.
Boston traded Kemba Walker and allowed Evan Fournier to depart through free company after the five-game sequence loss to the Nets. The Celtics added beginning middle Al Horford within the offseason and bought well-rounded guard Derrick White and depth ahead Daniel Theis from the Spurs on the commerce deadline.
The end result was an unexpectedly robust season for the Atlantic Division champions. The Celtics personal the very best file (17-5) within the NBA for the reason that All-Star break, are 28-7 relationship to Jan. 21 and completed the season No. 1 within the NBA in defensive ranking and ninth offensively.
The Celtics, it ought to be famous, are anticipated to be with out huge man Robert Williams III, their main rebounder and shot-blocker, who suffered a torn left meniscus in late March. However they did win 4 of their remaining 5 video games with out him.
The Nets are also very totally different, except for the large two of Durant and Irving. Sharpshooter Joe Harris appeared in simply 14 video games earlier than present process two surgical procedures on his left ankle and is out for the season. James Harden was traded to the 76ers on Feb. 10. The present roster contains quite a lot of key newcomers, akin to Patty Mills, Andre Drummond and Seth Curry.
Not like the Celtics’ modifications, although, the Nets’ turnover didn’t equate to a greater common season. The Nets went 44-38, a serious drop from their 48-24 file in 2020-21. Durant missed 27 video games largely as a result of a knee harm, nevertheless, and Irving solely appeared in 29 video games as a result of his refusal to satisfy the New York Metropolis COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which barred him from enjoying in house video games till only in the near past. The Nets have been 33-19 when Durant was within the lineup and 12-6 when Irving joined him.
Durant and Irving will likely be collectively, barring harm, for everything of this sequence — one of many few constants from the opening-round sequence final spring.