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Durant all about ‘respect’ for Boston

Nets superstar isn't taking Celtics lightly in first round

April 14, 2022 John Torenli, Sports Editor
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Tip-off isn’t until Sunday afternoon.

But Kevin Durant is doing some advance work on the seventh-seeded Nets’ psyche headed into their first-round playoff series against Boston.

“We respect our opponents,” Durant insisted after Brooklyn earned a trip to a best-of-seven by topping Cleveland at Barclays Center Tuesday night in an NBA play-in game.

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Durant apparently took exception to a comment made by teammate Bruce Brown, who said the Nets could take advantage of the Celtics in the low post due to the absence of Boston forward Robert Williams III due to a torn meniscus.

Bruce Brown’s postgame comments Tuesday may have inspired the second-seeded Celtics as they prepare to host the seventh-seeded Nets Sunday. AP Photo by Frank Franklin II

Williams may be available to return during the series, but he won’t be in the paint when the Nets hit Beantown Sunday at 3:30 p.m. for Game 1.

Knowing the second-seeded Celtics (51-31) might get a bit of motivation from Brown’s comments and their first-round ousting by the Nets last year, Durant wants to make sure Brooklyn comes out ready for Boston’s best, not to mention the sellout crowd at TD Garden.

“We don’t need to talk about what we’re going to do to them. I just don’t like that, but that’s how Bruce is,” Durant said.

“He comes in and keeps the same energy throughout the whole season so — but we don’t need to say (stuff) like that. Let’s just go out there and hoop.”

Kyrie Irving intends to do exactly that.

The former Celtics guard, who helped eliminate Boston in five quick games last season, gave his opinion on Celtics star Jayson Tatum, who helped beat the Nets three times during the regular season and averaged a team-best 26.9 points per contest.

“It starts with really slowing (Tatum) down,” Irving said. “He has a great feel playing against us, and everyone else around is very complementary to that attack; and when JT’s getting doubled, Marcus Smart is pushing the pace, he’s playing well hitting shots.

“Al Horford’s dominating the offensive rebounds, and Daniel Theis filling in for Robert Williams, it’s big.”

Kyrie Irving isn’t about to let the Boston Celtics end Brooklyn’s season if he and his teammates can help it. AP Photo by Bebeto Matthews

Boston won three of four meetings with Brooklyn this season, including a 126-120 triumph in Beantown on March 6.

While the Nets struggled just to earn a spot in a postseason series, the Celtics finished first in the Atlantic Division and won 10 of their last 13 games, overcoming a slow start to the season.

“It’s exciting,” said Horford. “I don’t know in mid-January if this is a possibility. We would have settled for like 6 (seed) or 5. To be in this position is a testament to our group.”

Durant reiterated that it will take the Nets’ best to beat Boston and get back to the Eastern Conference semifinals, where they lost to eventual NBA champion Milwaukee last year.

“We gotta just play hard — and I expect us to.” he noted.

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