The Boston Celtics will take on the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the playoffs after clinching the seventh seed with a win over the Washington Wizards in the play-in tournament.
After the Celtics’ win over the Wizards, head coach Brad Stevens didn’t seem to be too confident in Boston’s chances against Brooklyn.
“We’ll do our best to get ready for Brooklyn,” Stevens said. “They’re the best of the best. As a fan of the NBA, it’s hard to see those guys losing. We’re going to have to play great and play great together.”
Stevens may be right, as Brooklyn has arguably the greatest “Big Three” ever assembled in Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving. The Nets also have a great supporting cast of Blake Griffin, Joe Harris, Jeff Green, and Bruce Brown.
However, that isn’t the right message for a coach to send ahead of a playoff series. You have a superstar in Jayson Tatum, who put up 50 points in the win over the Wizards, and other guys who take pride in their work out there on the court in Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, and Evan Fournier.
It’s OK to respect your opponent and recognize their greatness, but heading into a series, you have to be a little bit delusional and believe in the guys you have on your roster.
Stevens’ belief in his team may not automatically help the Celtics win the series, but it will at least make them hungrier and put them in a better position to win a game or two. If the Celtics can say they took at least a game or two from a championship-caliber team, then that will do wonders for the team’s confidence heading into the offseason and into the next season and beyond.
The Celtics are a young team. Tatum is still only 23 years old, and Jaylen Brown, their other franchise cornerstone, is just 24.
Brown is out for this series, but instead of admitting defeat, inspire guys like Fournier to take the next step and build Tatum up to the point where he believes he can single-handedly carry a team far into the playoffs.
A head coach can’t worry about the opposition. They can only worry about what’s going on internally and build success as a collective group.
Stevens has been rumored to be on the hot seat for quite a while now, so maybe he’s saying this ahead of time to cover for himself, but the truth of the matter is that it only makes him look bad in not publicly believing in his team.
At the end of the day, Stevens is almost certainly right, as the Celtics just don’t have enough offensively or defensively to keep up with the Nets. The Nets are just too dynamic of a team to go down against a .500 team.
The only two or three teams that can give the Nets a fight in the Eastern Conference are the Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Miami Heat.