Kevin Durant knows he must be better against more physical Celtics


Through two games — both Nets losses — this first-round series against Boston has been the worst basketball of Kevin Durant’s career.

It’s up to Steve Nash to help his star, as Brooklyn braces for Saturday’s Game 3. Though Durant doesn’t see it that way.

“It’s on me to just finish it and figure it out. I’m not expecting my teammates or the defense to give me anything. I just got to go out there and play,” Durant said.

“I’ve just come back and play. Get ready to work, just keep grinding. … I’m going to be expected to be aggressive throughout the rest of this series, so control some of that stuff and look at film and keep playing.”

Durant has a ton to figure out, and quickly.

He’ll come into Game 3 shooting just 31.7 percent with a dozen turnovers and eight assists, the first time in his career that he’d ever hit under 40 percent and committed six-plus turnovers in consecutive games.

Celtics' Jayson Tatum blocks Kevin Durant's shot during the Nets' Game 2 loss.
Celtics’ Jayson Tatum blocks Kevin Durant’s shot during the Nets’ Game 2 loss.
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“It’s not all on Kev. I take accountability. Everybody on our team takes accountability,” Kyrie Irving said. “I’ve got to get him to his spots and make the game a lot easier. I believe I can do that with the assistance of my other coaches, having a game plan to attack this defense.”

So far, Celtics coach Ime Udoka — a former Nets assistant — has had a better game plan than Nash, his former boss. And it’s been the defense attacking Durant, who shot 0-for-10 with four turnovers in the second half Wednesday. It’s the most attempts without a make in any half of his career.

“Ime knows us really well. He coached on our staff last year, so he has some keys in the treasure chest that he’s telling those guys,” Irving said.

“It does help. It’s beneficial,” Udoka admitted Thursday. “You get to know them a little more intimately when you’re coaching them and being with them for a season. So me being a defensive-minded guy, it’s beneficial to be with those guys and see the things that other teams have done against them, some ideas I have in my head. Just being around him you learn a little more intricacies of their game.”

Kevin Durant
Durant is shooting just 31.7 percent against the Celtics and has a dozen turnovers in two games.
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

The Nets are the league’s most isolation-heavy team. But Boston’s switch-heavy defense lures teams into not just iso but bad one-on-one habits. The Nets must stop falling into that trap, and improve their sorry off-ball movement from Game 2.

“They’re just packing in whoever’s on the nail. The person in the middle and whoever’s on the nail is just standing there. The supporting cast has to be better for them. Cut, get off the wing and just be ready to shoot the ball,” said Bruce Brown, who — along with Seth Curry and Patty Mills must space the floor better.

“Yeah, definitely. Sometimes we can cut off the wing so [Durant] can have more space to get to his spot instead of having to shoot over two people every time. … But we’ll figure it out.”

Udoka has largely figured Durant out. The Celtics have roughed him up off the ball, blown up actions before they started and face-guarded him.

And when he has gotten the ball, there’s been a defender just sitting on the nail, right in the middle of the free-throw line, between each side of the key, waiting for his arrival to use their length.

“They play a simple defense, switch everything, and then you’ve got length like they’ve got. They’re basically playing zone, so it’s easy for every player,” said Durant. “So when you simplify the game, it makes it easier for the players, and that’s what Ime did.”

Udoka learned about slowing Durant during his days as a Spurs assistant. But he gleaned far more in his year alongside him in Brooklyn, and stole from the Bucks’ playoff game plan.

“That’s the start of your defense is not allowing him to get it, as simple as it sounds. The less touches he has the better obviously,” Udoka said. “And last year in the Milwaukee series, PJ Tucker really got into his body, was physical, denied touches, denied catches. Those are things that have worked so far.”

Celtics big man Al Horford added, “It’s definitely a benefit for our group, because he just has a good sense of the things that they want to do and how they want to play.”



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