Celtics' masterful plan to slow Durant is producing historic results


BOSTON -- At several points during Wednesday's first-round NBA playoff matchup at TD Garden, Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant was seen engaging in some banter with Celtics head coach Ime Udoka as he passed Boston's sideline.

We don't know what Durant to said to the former Nets assistant, but here's what he could have been saying in his head: "Please stop."

The defensive game plan Udoka and his staff devised to slow down one of the greatest postseason performers in NBA history has been a smashing success through two games. After limiting Durant to 23 points in a Game 1 victory, Boston's aggressive, physical defense held the Nets star to 4 of 17 shooting in Game 2, with 18 of his 27 points coming at the free throw line in a 114-107 Celtics win.

Celtics-Nets takeaways: C's pull off incredible comeback to take Game 2

Durant looked out of sorts all night. He attempted just two 3-pointers, committed six turnovers for the second consecutive game and went 0-for-10 from the floor in the second half to hit a new personal low.

Durant, a two-time NBA Finals MVP and career 50% shooter, is 13 for 41 (31.7%) through two games with 12 turnovers.

"He's been uncomfortable," Nets head coach Steve Nash said after Game 2. "He hasn't looked like he's been able to quite get his rhythm."

That's because the Celtics haven't given him any room to operate. Udoka has tasked his players with being ultra-physical on Durant, chipping him at every opportunity and forcing him to work for his points rather than pull up for 3-pointers or get a clear path to the paint.


"We want to have bodies on him at all times, taking up that airspace where you can't get too comfortable," Udoka said. "Try to speed him up a little bit and throw some different looks at him. That's what it's going to take against a high-level scorer like him.

"Trying to wear him down, I think it takes the effort of everybody switching onto him, knowing their game plan, and getting inside the 3-point line and making him take those tough contested pull-up twos."

The 33-year-old Durant is already feeling the effects of Boston's approach after logging 41-plus minutes in consecutive games.

Two or three guys hit me wherever I go. ... I see a few of their guys around me every time I get the ball and when I'm setting up.

Kevin Durant on the Celtics' defensive game plan

"Two or three guys hit me wherever I go," Durant said after the game. "And that's just the nature of the beast in the playoffs. I see a few of their guys around me every time I get the ball and when I'm setting up."

Boston's game plan leaves it vulnerable to Nets role players like Bruce Brown and Goran Dragic, who dropped 23 and 18 points respectively to help keep Brooklyn on top entering the fourth quarter.

But Udoka's strategy paid dividends down the stretch, when the Celtics' two young stars elevated their game -- Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined for 17 of Boston's 29 points in the fourth quarter -- and Durant couldn't match them, missing all five of his field goal attempts in the fourth quarter.

"They're doing a great job of trying to cut off my scoring and trying to limit my shot-making," Durant admitted. "Two or three people contest, or somebody is in the lane when I'm driving, or they might double here and there.

"So, they're doing a good job. It's on me to figure it out."

With the Nets down 2-0 heading back to Brooklyn, their season may depend on it.

Note: Games 2-6 of the Brooklyn Nets-Boston Celtics series will be aired on NBC Sports Boston and can also be streamed on NBCSportsBoston.com or with the MyTeams App, which you can download below.

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