Celtics take the fight to Nets

From as high above court-side as he could possibly be, Johnny Most is relishing this series.

It is the sort of intense basketball battle, a ferocity of ill will, so rarely seen these days.

That isn’t to suggest that there is dirty play afoot, or that the combatants are telling one another to meet in the nearest alley for a post-game brawl.

There is simply a clear recognition that the loser goes home, and neither side wants to start setting tee times.

For those of us who think there is way too much pre-, in- and post-game love during the regular season, the snarling is welcome.

If Kyrie Irving’s mere presence is enough to fuel the crowd’s appetite for a few well-placed elbows, the players should deliver.

And so they have. The result is a series that, if it stays on course, may leave the rest of the playoffs lacking in comparison.

Game 1 has been so weighted down with well-earned praise that expecting anything close to a repeat performance three days later was downright silly.

Then came Game 2 on Wednesday night. The Celtics roared back from 17 points down, Irving was rendered all-but irrelevant, the likes of Grant Williams and Payton Prichard made contributions above and beyond reasonable hopes …

The lone missing ingredient was a last-second, game-winning layup.

Most significantly, the Celtics slapped down the Nets and head to Brooklyn for Game 3 with a 2-0 lead. Contrary to semi-popular belief, that doesn’t mean the outcome of the series has been decided.

The Celtics did not take charge of Game 2 during one extended run, the kind that often decide NBA games. The Celtics did it gradually, not taking their first lead of the night until Prichard nailed a step-back jumper with 7:49 left in the game.

For most of that 7:49, the Nets looked dazed and confused, not quite grasping what was going on.

The Celtics ultimately won going away. They did it by holding Kevin Durant to six points down the stretch, all free throws. They fronted him, they pushed him and they pulled him.

They shut down Irving completely. Once the Celtics took the lead, Irving might as well have taken a seat.

So now it’s on to Brooklyn.

May the elbows keep flying.

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