The Boston Celtics recently were witnesses to just how dangerous of an opponent the Brooklyn Nets could be during the 2020-21 NBA season.
The Nets, led by superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, dominated the Celtics in a 113-89 preseason win last Friday at TD Garden. Durant and Irving scored 42 points on a combined 16-of-31 shooting. Brooklyn also shot 45.7 percent (16-of-35) from 3-point range.
Of course, it would be foolish to take too much from a single preseason game. Neither team played its starters normal minutes, and the Celtics were without two key players in Kemba Walker and Tristan Thompson due to injuries.
That said, the Nets look really good, and Durant is playing like the superstar he was before suffering a torn Achilles in the 2019 NBA Finals and missing all of last season.
Where does Brooklyn fit among the hierarchy in the Eastern Conference entering the new season? This topic was among several discussed on the latest episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast with Chris Forsberg and Michael Holley.
"Brooklyn is the wild card for a couple of reasons," Holley said. "If everyone is healthy and Kevin Durant is the No. 2 player in the league -- now, some people think he's the best player in the league after he went up against LeBron James when he was with the Warriors. He was healthy and (the Warriors) dominated (James). For my money, he's the No. 2 player in the league.
"So, think about that. The No. 2 player comes to your conference and that's not a big deal? That's a big deal. The question for the Nets is will they play up to their talent, or will they play like those guys who we heard on that podcast in the summer? If they play like the podcast guys, they'll just be a really talented team and lose in the second round of the playoffs. But if they play to their talent, they're a real problem."
The talent level is clear, but there are a few concerns with the Nets.
"Their strengths are obvious: You have Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. You're in good shape," Holley said. "You've got a pretty good starting five. I don't know about your bench, and I don't know about your coach. Steve Nash is a first year coach. We've seen first year coaches come in, including Steve Kerr and Larry Bird, and look like they belong there. Other guys are overwhelmed. That's one of the big questions about them, but I think without a doubt they are a top four team in the Eastern Conference."
The Nets will be under enormous expectations this season, but as long as Durant and Irving are healthy and in the lineup, they are going to be very tough to beat four times in a seven-game playoff series. They have more offensive firepower than just about every team in the league.
Also in this episode: Chris and Michael share their concerns about the Celtics entering the season. They also give some bold predictions for the Celtics, Forsberg sits down for exclusive interviews with Jayson Tatum and Romeo Langford, and much more!