Nets need Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving to fix their games now
Coach Steve Nash and his Nets have far more immediate concerns than the likelihood of Ben Simmons joining their lineup Monday for Game 4 of their first-round playoff series against the Celtics.
First, superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, in Game 3 on Saturday at Barclays Center, must rebound from poor shooting performances in two road losses to prevent the Nets from falling behind 3-0 in the best-of-seven series.
Durant is shooting 31.7 percent (13-for-41) with just two made 3-pointers through the first two games, including an 0-for-10 showing from the field in the fourth quarter of Game 2.
“It happens. I’ve seen Kevin fight back from bad games plenty of times in his playoff career. … I couldn’t have more faith and trust in Kevin Durant,” Nash said after practice Friday. “Sometimes you go through these little pockets of play. We’re playing a team that’s excellent defensively and a big team. And they do a great job. That doesn’t mean, though, that things can’t change.
“I think Kevin Durant is one of the best players to ever play the game, and he’ll continue to improve as the series goes on.”
Irving, the former Celtic who was financed $50,000 by the NBA for giving the finger to boston fans during a 39-point performance in the series opener, endured a quiet Game 2 with just 10 points on 4-for-13 shooting in 40 minutes.
Boston head coach and former Nets assistant Ime Udoka has had his top-ranked defense double-teaming Durant and Irving often on the perimeter. The Celtics forced Durant to commit six turnovers in each of the first two games. Boston is expected to get active big man Robert Williams III back for Game 3.
“I think there’s ways we can help. I think we keep those to ourselves, but it’s plenty of things to learn every time you play, plenty of things to adjust and adapt to, especially in a series, game to game,” Nash said. “But that’s a part of playoff basketball that I think is enjoyable, is the adjustments you make.
“Sometimes I think people when we talk about adjustments think of massive scheme shifts. A lot of times it’s like putting your feet two feet in the other direction. It’s not always some massive theoretical change.”
Asked if he believed the Celtics have been “getting away with” overly physical play against Durant and Irving or if it’s “just playoff basketball,” Nash replied: “A bit of both. You go on the road in the playoffs and sometimes it is somewhere in that gray area. I think there’s definitely plays that aren’t called, but you can probably say that about every game. I’m not here to get in the weeds about the refereeing. We’re going to prepare our team and our guys to play a basketball game.”
Veteran big men LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin have not appeared in the series, but Nash would not commit to any rotation changes for Game 3. He noted that the Celtics won Game 1 on Jayson Tatum’s last-second drive and the Nets led by 17 in the first half of Game 2.
“I think we have to hold our nerve here,” Nash said. “I feel confident in our group. Like I keep saying, it’s a new group, as well. So we’re still trying to learn to play together. We’ve never been in a playoff environment together.
“There’s an element that we’re hoping we can grow and improve on the fly, as well. It’s hard to think ‘let’s change everything’ when we’re trying to see it for the first time and not overreact and recognize that we were very unlucky, although I don’t think we played well, very unlucky not to win by a split second in Game 1 and then had our best half of the series in Game 2 and just didn’t sustain it.”