NEW YORK — Brooklyn Nets star forward Kevin Durant has been in the league long enough to know it’s not wise to give a playoff opponent any extra motivation before a series begins.
So when Durant heard Nets guard Bruce Brown’s critique of the Boston Celtics, saying that the Nets can attack them down low in their upcoming Eastern Conference quarterfinals series because of the absence of Celtics big man Robert Williams III, Durant was quick to rebuke his young teammate’s comments.
“We respect our opponents,” Durant said after the Nets finished off a 115-108 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Tuesday night’s play-in game. “We don’t need to talk about what we’re going to do to them. I just don’t like that, but that’s how Bruce is. He comes in and keeps the same energy throughout the whole season so — but we don’t need to say s— like that. Let’s just go out there and hoop.”
Brown’s comments came after he was asked what he felt the biggest key will be to slowing down the Celtics in the series, which starts in Boston on Sunday afternoon.
“We can’t let [Jayson] Tatum get 50,” Brown said. “We got to be physical with them. Now they don’t have Robert Williams, so they have less of a presence in the paint, and we could attack Al Horford and [Daniel] Theis. So them not having Robert Williams is huge.”
Durant, who took the dais for the postgame news conference after Brown did, had already been tipped off that Brown had said something he wouldn’t appreciate.
“What did Bruce Brown say when he got up here?” Durant asked the assembled media. “He said something I didn’t like, somebody just told me.”
When told of Brown’s comments, Durant tried to walk them back.
“That’s caffeine pride talking,” Durant said. “He takes something before the game. Those two dudes [Horford and Theis] can do the same stuff. It ain’t going to be that easy, I tell you that.”
Aside from keeping Brown’s words in check, Durant knows the bigger key in the series will be defending Tatum. The Celtics All-Star went off for 50 points in a win over the Nets in early March and continued to improve his game while leading the Celtics to the No. 2 seed in the East.
“It starts with really slowing JT down,” Nets guard Kyrie Irving said. “He has a great feel playing against us, and everyone else around is very complementary to that attack; and when JT’s getting doubled, Marcus Smart is pushing the pace, he’s playing well hitting shots. Al Horford’s dominating the offensive rebounds, and Daniel Theis filling in for Robert Williams, it’s big.”
How do the Nets plan to slow down Tatum? Durant knows that’s easier said than done.
“That’s a tough question,” Durant said. “He’s one of those players you just got to play hard and see what happens. He’s just so talented and skilled and efficient at what he does. We gotta just play hard — and I expect us to.”