Nets 113, Celtics 89: Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving Lead Another Big Preseason Offensive Show

After a figure-it-out-on-the-fly offseason, a training camp set on fast-forward, and just two preseason games, the Brooklyn Nets look very ready for the start of the 2020-21 NBA season.

With the season-opener due in just four days, the Nets put forth another high-performance offensive show, this time against a Boston Celtics team that was fourth in the NBA in defensive rating last season, in a 113-89 win at TD Center.

In their initial preseason game against Washington, the Nets put up 68 points on 63.9 percent shooting in the first half before Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving called it a night. This time, after another 60-point first half, Durant and Irving extended their minutes, and they pushed things further, leading by as many as 36 points in the second half.

Head coach Steve Nash has said that with the limited number of group workouts the team has had, he hasn’t installed a significant amount of what the Nets will do schematically this season, instead emphasizing the physical preparation. So what Brooklyn has done so far has come off its talent, skill, and depth, with the group executing based on experience and feel.

“A lot of it is just high IQ basketball,” said Irving. “You know, just relying on each other to make the right plays. Basketball is really simple when you play it with pace. You play it with the intention to get the defense guessing. And defense can be your best offense as well. So, we've been really hammering in on the defense end. And then offensively, I feel like you know, the talent that we have speaks for itself. But we got to do the little things, getting off the ball. Some extra passes.

“And Steve is right. We have been playing off what they've been putting in and we've just been playing and being great. But you'll see a change over the course of the season as we mature and play more together and get more reps, I feel. You know, things will be a lot more crisp. We had a lot of turnovers. We had 24 assists. Obviously, it's still a preseason game, but even in practice, we still want to do the right things. So, I wish we had some more tune up games but obviously right on through it.”

Durant put up 25 points in 27 minutes, shooting 9-of-16 with six rebounds and three blocks. Irving had 17 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals, making 3-of-6 3-pointers. Caris LeVert scored 18 points in 21 minutes, and Joe Harris had 14 points and 5 rebounds, hitting 4-of-7 3-pointers. Jarrett Allen grabbed 11 rebounds and scored 9 points. The Nets shot 16-of-35 (45.7 percent) from 3-point range and had 26 assists on 38 field goals.

“I felt like, coach (Mike) D'Antoni, Steve, Ime (Udoka), guys who have been talking to us a lot about the offensive side of the ball, you know kind of gave us a blank canvas and let us create the way we want to create you know from giving us a template of things to work out of,” said Durant. “Guys are using their IQ and their instincts for the game to kind of make the right plays. And like I said earlier, for example Joe coming off of screens in transition and just sprinting up to the ball and shoot 3s and Caris coming off the bench and providing a spark for us as a scorer. That little stuff is things that come out on the fly. Those guys, a lot of my teammates and I have a high IQ for the game so it's all about just playing off that template.”

It was the first preseason game for LeVert, who is coming off a standout performance last summer on the NBA Campus in Orlando. He missed the initial preseason game with a patellar contusion, but quickly returned to practice. Coming off the bench to take the lead role with the second unit, LeVert shot 6-for-13 overall and made 2-of-3 3-pointers.

“I feel good. I feel like my rhythm is there,” said LeVert. “I’ve been playing kind of since the bubble stopped, so I’m in a good rhythm right now for myself. I know a lot of guys on the team kind of probably feel the same way. We’ve been playing a lot of basketball, so feel like we’re in a pretty good rhythm.”

As they were against Washington, the Nets were crisp early. Harris was more involved than he was in the opener, hitting two early 3s and 4-of-5 in the first half. Brooklyn quickly doubled an eight-point lead late in the first quarter with a 10-0 run that began with a LeVert 3-pointer and closed with two LeVert free throws for a 33-15 lead.

The Nets were up 62-44 at halftime, and after the Celtics cut the lead to nine points in the early minutes of the second half, they closed the third quarter on 27-4 run, including the final 18 points of the quarter. Brooklyn’s 101-65 lead early in the fourth quarter was its largest of the game.