The Celtics aren’t a star-studded superteam on a record-breaking budget, but they’ve constructed the perfect defensive-minded squad for a Finals trip.
On Wednesday, Boston overcame a 17-point deficit to take a 2-0 series lead against the Nets — stifling Kevin Durant and holding Brooklyn to 15 fourth-quarter points.
Unlike the Nets ($174.8M payroll), the Celtics distributed their money properly, prioritizing defense under Ime Udoka while trusting in continuity and homegrown talent — namely Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart.
- The Celtics ($138.1M) have $36.7 million less on the books than the Nets.
- Udoka’s salary isn’t public, but he definitely makes less than Steve Nash ($8.7M), the third-highest-paid coach in the NBA.
- Durant ($42M) went 0-10 in the second half of Game 2 — his most FGA in a half without a single make.
- Kyrie Irving ($35.2M) shot 4-of-13 — the first time both he and KD shot below 33% in a game together.
In his new executive role, former coach Brad Stevens was smart to hire Udoka. Perhaps Stevens even anticipated this playoff scenario — as a former Nets assistant, Udoka says he knows what makes Brooklyn’s players “tick.”
Boston hasn’t lost four in a six-game span since early January. Now, Brooklyn’s season is on the line at the hands of a Celtics team with the third-best odds to win the Finals (+700) — a spot they stole from the Nets.