Celtics coverage has Kevin Durant questioning himself
NEW YORK — Kevin Durant focused on being a playmaker Saturday night, trying to get his teammates more involved as the Celtics continued to successfully challenge his scoring opportunities.
On the way to scoring 16 points, he finished with only three more shot attempts (11) than assists (eight), attempted only three 3-pointers, making two, and turned the ball over five times, increasing his three-game total to 17.
The Nets star admitted that he felt as hesitant and confused as he looked, and that he was thinking too much. The flow had deserted his game. And from a Celtics perspective, things are working exactly as planned — better, probably, than they could have hoped for on the way to a 3-0 edge in this first-round playoff series.
“I would like to think that what we’re doing is getting in his head and causing him to do the second-guessing,” Marcus Smart said following a meeting at the team hotel on Sunday.
“You play against one of the greatest players in this world to do this, you can’t let him be comfortable,” he said. “You have to have him second-guessing. It’s a game of rhythm, runs, and we all know he can get into one of the greatest rhythms and runs all by himself, along with Kyrie (Irving). I would like to think we have something to do with that. I don’t know how much of that we do have to take credit for. But we just have to continue to make it tough or him. If he’s second-guessing himself, then we’ve done our job.
“It’s going great, it’s going exactly as we expected,” added Smart. “For the most part just because we believe in ourselves more than anything. We knew the task coming in was high against a really good team, and two of the best players to ever do this. We also knew our defense had the potential to do our best on those guys because of our size and the way we play defense together. It’s definitely something that’s gone the way we have planned. We’ve been playing good basketball this whole calendar year, so for us to keep it going, it’s something we felt we could do.”
The Celtics have also operated well on the fly, switching on all players, but always coming back to starting physical extra coverage of Durant off the ball.
“I think that’s one of our best attributes,” Smart said of adjusting to situations. “There’s a lot of things Ime (Udoka) has called on the fly, and especially in a playoff game. It’s loud in the building, it’s hard to hear what he’s calling, let alone your teammates right there. So for us to do what we do on the fly has come a long way from earlier in the season. But it’s one of our best attributes. It allows us to use our instincts and be us, not robots. Just play. Use our IQ and everything we’ve built up over the years from playing basketball.”
The Rob Williams difference
Though he only played 16 minutes Saturday in his return from knee surgery, there was an immediate difference with Rob Williams back on the floor.
“Oh man. Woo. It makes our defense that much better, as we all know,” said Smart. “He makes everybody else’s job a lot easier. But I mean, we were so excited to see Rob back out there. He’s just an instrumental part of our offense, defense, and this team. So to get him back as quick as we did, we’re ecstatic about that and we were just happy for him to be out there, man. Rob loves this game, he’s been working his tail off, and he’s been having one of the greatest years of his career. So we’re just excited to see him out there, to do what he loves to do, and help this team.”
The day after report on Williams was a good one.
“Great. No problems at all,” said Udoka, who will approach a minutes increase cautiously. “The minutes we talked about were, it was in the 24 range anyway. And so just being a little more cautious. We wanted to keep him less than 20 and we did that 15 and a half. Technically, we could have played more and, as his confidence in his body and responds to the live game action, that can increase. We’ll get with the medical team, talk to him, see how you felt after last night and go from there but technically could have played more minutes than (he) did last night.”
A group of Celtics have bonded over the card game Uno on team flights.
“It’s literally just the first time I feel like an NBA team can say they are doing something with no money involved, right?” Grant Williams said with a laugh. “Playing Uno, and let’s just say Matt Ryan is the worst Uno player outside of Malik Fitts. Myself and Al (Horford) are competitive but we sit next to one another, so it’s either one of us gets the win that day or the other one does, same with (Daniel) Theis, and then Smart. So there’s a couple guys. We play with like seven dudes, it’s me, Theis, Smart, Al, Brodric (Thomas), Malik, even (Derrick) D-White sometimes, Matt, it goes down the line, JB. We’ve had a huge group before, we have six decks of Uno. It’s pretty dope.”