Keep an eye on these storylines as Celtics go for sweep vs. Nets

Kyrie Irving

The Boston Celtics wanted all the smoke, and now they're one game away from extinguishing the Brooklyn Nets.

The Celtics have a 3-0 first-round series lead over Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and a Nets team that many thought they should avoid entering the NBA playoffs. Boston can complete the series sweep Monday night in Game 4 with a win at Barclays Center.

It's hard to imagine Brooklyn not winning a single playoff game with Durant and Irving, but the superstars both sounded defeated after the Nets' Game 3 loss Saturday night, with head coach Steve Nash suggesting fatigue was a factor for the duo.

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So, will the Nets roll over and allow the Celtics to sweep them out of the first round? Or will they make a stand to send the series back to Boston for Game 5? Here are the storylines we're watching entering tonight's Game 4 in Brooklyn.

How to watch Celtics vs. Nets

Start Time: Celtics Pregame Live begins on NBC Sports Boston at 6 p.m. ET. Celtics vs. Nets will tip off at 7 p.m. ET at Barclays Center.

TV Channel: NBC Sports Boston

Live Stream: NBC Sports Boston and the MyTeams app

1. Have the Celtics broken the Nets' spirit?

Ex-Celtics big man Kendrick Perkins blasted Brooklyn after Game 3, noting how Boston has "snatched the Nets' soul"  and calling out Durant for putting the Nets in this situation to begin with.


The Celtics deserve a ton of credit here, as they've worn down Durant and Irving with a ferocious defense while relying on a full team effort to absorb Brooklyn's best punches. The Nets officially ruled out Ben Simmons for Game 4, and it's hard not to view that decision as them waving the white flag in this series.

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It's also hard to imagine a player of Durant's caliber letting his team get swept, though. It will be interesting to see whether Brooklyn comes out with a "backs against the wall" urgency tonight, or whether Irving does a disappearing act for a third straight game and the Nets go down without a fight.

2. Will Scott Foster impact Boston's defensive game plan?

The Celtics have found massive success with a physical defensive strategy, giving Durant zero airspace and chipping him as much as possible. But Durant could get a few more extra whistles in Game 3.

That's because veteran NBA referee Scott Foster has been assigned as the crew chief for Celtics-Nets Game 4. The Celtics actually have fared quite well in games reffed by Foster -- 65-59 all-time -- but average 22.4 fouls per game in those contests, the second-most of any NBA team.

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Don't expect Boston to change what it does defensively based on referee assignments. But don't be surprised if Durant has an outing similar to Game 2, when he attempted 20 (!) free throws in a game Brooklyn led until late in the second half.

3. Can Robert Williams take another step forward?

Robert Williams showed flashes of promise in his first game back knee surgery, recording a dunk, a pair of rebounds, an assist and a block in 16 minutes of action.

Head coach Ime Udoka admitted he would have played Williams more if the game was closer, so Celtics fans should look forward to seeing more of Time Lord in Game 4. Williams is crucial to Boston's success on both ends of the floor, so the closer he is to full speed, the better entering a potential second-round showdown with the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks.

The Celtics should do everything in their power to win tonight, but if Brooklyn forces a Game 5, there could be a silver lining in Williams having more time to get acclimated before Round 2.


Note: Games 4-6 of the Brooklyn Nets-Boston Celtics series will be aired exclusively 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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