Celtics

Are KD, Kyrie and the Nets already the team to beat in the East?

Celtics

The NBA's biggest stars shine brightest on Christmas Day, and the Boston Celtics found that out the hard way Friday.

Kyrie Irving (37 points) and Kevin Durant (29 points) went off for a combined 66 points to power the Brooklyn Nets to a 123-95 win at TD Garden.

Boston actually led by three at halftime, but Brooklyn's star duo proved too much to handle as the Nets outscored the C's by 31 points in the second half to hand them their first loss.

Here are three overreactions to Boston's Christmas Day loss:

1. The Nets with a healthy KD and Kyrie are the scariest team in the East.

The Celtics did a lot things right in this one. They got strong efforts from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, won the rebound battle and took a three-point lead into the second half.

Then Durant took over.

The 10-time All-Star dropped 16 points in the third quarter -- 12 of which came in the first six minutes -- to push the Nets ahead. He scored with remarkable ease against multiple defenders.

Durant has poured in 51 points in just 58 minutes on 50 percent shooting in his first two games after returning from an Achilles injury. The Celtics played well through three quarters Friday, but there's no defense for KD when he's on.

Oh, and Irving was a flamethrower as well, pouring in a Christmas Day franchise record 37 points to go along with eight assists.

The Milwaukee Bucks have been the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed for two years running and routed the Golden State Warriors earlier this afternoon. But if this version of Durant is for real and Irving can stay on the court, the Nets are deep enough to make some serious noise.

 

Verdict: Not an overreaction

2. The Celtics need a third scorer.

Tatum (20 points on 9-for-22 shooting) and Brown (27 points on 11-for-25 shooting) both played well for the second game in a row and filled the highlight reel with some sparkling plays.

But they didn't get much help, as Marcus Smart (13 points) was the only other Celtic in double figures.

If the C's get a solid contribution from at least one role player -- like Jeff Teague and his 19 points in the season opener -- they can beat a lot of teams in this league. With Kemba Walker sidelined and Gordon Hayward in Charlotte, however, they're pretty reliant on Tatum and Brown to shoulder the offensive load.

Danny Ainge has that $28.5 million trade exception in his back pocket, so perhaps he'll be compelled to add offensive firepower if Walker's absence lasts longer than expected.

Verdict: Slight overreaction

3. Payton Pritchard can be the Celtics' No. 2 point guard.

The Christmas Day stage wasn't too big for Pritchard, who contributed seven points, two rebounds, an assist and a pair of steals in 25 minutes.

On a night when Jeff Teague went ice cold (0 for 5), Pritchard gave Brad Stevens solid minutes off the bench, hitting a deep 3-pointer with no hesitation for his first bucket of the night and showing poise with the ball in his hands.

Boston will need significant contributions from both Teague and Pritchard at point guard with Walker sidelined. Pritchard has plenty of room for improvement, but the 22-year-old appears NBA-ready.

Verdict: Not an overreaction