MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

When last we spoke of the NBA Playoffs, one of us spoke of Game 1 of the Boston Celtics-Brooklyn Nets opening-round series, which the Celtics won, 115-112. Well, since then, the Celtics won three more close ones to sweep the series.

That in itself would not be surprising, given the Celtics were the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. On top of that, they’re really good. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a team at any level include and willfully incorporate all and any of the five players with the ball at any given time of a game the way the Celtics do. They are the most unselfish and one of the smartest teams with the ball that I’ve seen in a very long time.

On top of even that, the Celtics won this series with their defense; for other than Game 4 when Brooklyn star Kevin Durant finally broke out and scored 39 points, the Boston defense refused to give him room to blow his nose through the first three games.

The Celtics still did a great job on Durant in Game 4, but great players, as Kevin Durant is, will always have their time and he seized his on Monday night. That’s how good he is. That’s how good the Nets were supposed to be.

I was discussing the game and the series on Tuesday with my friend Derik, who also happens to be my barber (thank you, I think he does a great job, too), and Derik is a Brooklyn guy. He told me on Tuesday that from the beginning, he was pretty sure it wasn’t going to work with the Nets.

Let’s take a look at what didn’t work …

Entering the season, the Nets seemed to have had it all. They began with three of the biggest stars in the game — Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden — after just missing finishing off the eventual NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals last season.

Everybody had them as the favorite to win the NBA title this year. Other than my friend Derik, the Brooklyn Nets fan.

Before the season even began, Irving said he was not vaccinated against COVID-19 and would not be vaccinated in this or any lifetime, which went against New York City’s vaccine mandate.

Thus, Irving did not play a home game until the spring, missing over 50 games this season.

Then Harden said he wanted to be traded, and the team traded him to Philadelphia for high-scoring diva Ben Simmons, who, as it turned out, never played a game with the Nets this season. He was scheduled to play Game 4 against the Celtics, but then determined he didn’t feel quite right. Maybe he’d play Game 5 …

Maybe not.

The Nets were lucky to get into the playoffs and to get through the play-in tournament that completes the field. Coaching an entire team of divas is no easy task, but that the Nets fell so far short this season with these players is going to fall on the shoulders of head coach Steve Nash, once a semi-NBA diva himself, even though it was Kyrie Irving who voluntarily missed 53 games and Ben Simmons who voluntarily missed every game as well. Just the way it works in The Association.

But the truth is, the Nets were simply overmatched by the professionalism and by the way of team from the Celtics, even though all four games in this series were close. Durant, who was supposed to be New York’s next major straw to stir the drink in the tradition of one Sir Reginald Martinez Jackson, experienced being on the big fat donut-hole end of a sweep for the first time in his career.

Irving said after the game on Monday, he was coming back to Brooklyn and that he, Durant and the Nets general manager and owner would figure it all out.

Kyrie Irving is one of the most beautiful basketball players any of us have seen play. Yet, Kyrie is very deep. He has his own way. He is the sole resident of his own planet. He also said he was returning to the Celtics as he was becoming a free agent. He didn’t.

Not that anybody I know here other than Derik cares about the Nets; I understand that. But once you start to watch the NBA Playoffs, whether you’ve watched a single NBA game all season or not, you get sucked in.

You become hypnotized — by the storylines, by the drama, and by the very best basketball players on planet Earth.

I highly recommend it.

All of it.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT