Kevin Durant (l.) and Kyrie IrvingPhoto: Getty Images
“If Kyrie and KD average 30 and 35 points per game, that’s only 65 points. Where are the rest of the points going to come from?”
I heard some version of this take several times before the start of the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round series against the Boston Celtics. It was as if people genuinely believed that if Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant were to play some of the best basketball of their lives, the seven to nine other NBA players on the Nets’ roster weren’t capable of walking up a staircase and placing the ball in the rim.
In actuality, the Nets’ role players are the reason that this series has been competitive at all. Brooklyn is down 3-0 to the Celtics and are likely going to lose this series either on Monday or Wednesday. However, as Durant is having his worst playoff set since his rookie year, 2010 — when the Oklahoma City Thunder lost to the eventual NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers in six games — it has been the role players who have picked up the slack for the Nets, while Durant and Irving have not been able to finish the job late in the game.
Irving was spectacular in Game 1 against the Celtics. He attacked all of the hostility — regardless of what he wanted to call it — in TD Garden and was unstoppable for nearly the entire game, scoring 39 points on 60/60/100 shooting splits. Still, with Durant scoring 23 points while shooting only 38 percent from the field as the Celtics rushed him with pressure defense all day, the rest of the Nets’ 114 points had to come from somewhere.
The key contributors in this game were Goran Dragić and Nic Claxton. They combined for 27 points on 63.1 percent shooting. While Andre Drummond has started every game for the Nets this series — and also played well in Game 1 — it was Claxton who manned the paint for more than 30 minutes. He did damage down there, with eight rebounds and three blocks to go along with his 13 points. Claxton has been a force all series, and Steve Nash’s decision not to start him is one of the many criticisms he has received for his coaching in this first round.