Celtics Return Home Looking to Bring More ‘Edge’ in Game 3

Celtics Playoffs presented by Putnam Investments & Arbella Insurance

When the Boston Celtics return to TD Garden Friday night, looking to climb out of a 2-0 series hole against the Brooklyn Nets, head coach Brad Stevens will ask one thing of his team: to dig deep and uncover the best version of themselves.

“The edge, the pride, the competitiveness – everything needs to be at its best level,” Stevens said Thursday afternoon.

Because right now, that’s the only way that Boston will ever beat a team of Brooklyn’s caliber.

The Nets have shown over the last two games why they are nearly unbeatable at full strength, as they have displayed an offensive prowess unlike that of any team in recent memory. But nearly unbeatable is not totally unbeatable, and that’s because elite defensive effort can still triumph over elite offensive talent.

The Celtics nearly proved that point in Game 1 Saturday night, when they limited Brooklyn to 47 points in the first half, including just 16 points in the opening quarter. However, their offense didn’t get the job done in that game, as they fell 104-93.

Tuesday night was a different scenario, as the Nets came out swishing everything in Game 2. Joe Harris set the tone early by matching Brooklyn’s previous first-quarter effort with 16 points of his own during the opening frame, paving the way for a 130-108 win.

Stevens said that Game 1 was “more representative of how we have to play to be successful.” The type of defensive effort they showed in Game 2, on the other hand, is exactly what the team needs to avoid, according to Marcus Smart.

“We just have to play harder on the defensive end,” said Boston’s two-time First Team All-Defensive guard. “We lost one of the best shooters in this league multiple times. That’s just a lapse, a breakdown. Those are things we can control.

“We know they are a great team, but we’ve got to go out there and play. And it starts on the defensive end. We're going to score the ball. Defense is what we’ve got to pick up. And Game 3, we need this win. We’re down 2-0. So we’re at home, they took care of home court, we’ve got to do the same here.”

Smart knows what it’s like being down 2-0, and he and the Celtics have overcome such a deficit in the past. The key to doing so all lies in the focus department.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed knowing that you have to win four out of your next five games in order to avoid elimination. But it’s far less daunting if you can just focus on one game at a time or even one possession at a time.

“We have to take care of and what we can control,” Smart said. “That's just win one game at this point. We're down 2-0 and we have a great opportunity to come out and make it a series by winning one. We're not trying to hit home runs. We gotta take care of what's in front of us, which is [Friday] night."

And the only way they can take care of what’s in front of them, according to Stevens, is by digging deeper and uncovering the best version of themselves.

“We have to be much more physical, and we have to be better defensively,” the coach said. “Hopefully we can attack better as these games go on. But edge, competitive level is a huge, huge part of the weekend.”

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