Celtics Snap Judgments on 2021 Playoff Fate After Game 2 vs. Nets

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMay 27, 2021

Celtics Snap Judgments on 2021 Playoff Fate After Game 2 vs. Nets

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    Corey Sipkin/Associated Press

    Boston, you have a problem.

    Several of them, it seems.

    It might take more than two games to officially decide an NBA postseason series, but it sure feels like the curtains closed on the Boston Celtics sometime during their listless 22-point loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday.

    We'll get into that development here, plus two other plot lines we're ready to decide after two games of this series.

The Celtics Are Toast

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    The Nets are terrifying. It's not just that they can throw a knockout punch—it's that the brutal blow feels inevitable.

    Even when Boston built up an early advantage in Game 1 (taking a six-point edge into intermission), it felt like just a matter of time before Brooklyn awakened and devoured its opponent. The series score in the six quarters since is Nets 187, Celtics 148.

    This is a bloodbath. And it could get worse.

    The Celtics are already playing without Jaylen Brown, and then they lost their other All-Star swing, Jayson Tatum, to an eye injury in Game 2. Tatum needed to engineer the series of this life for this to stay somewhat respectable. If he's anywhere less than 100 percent, this will get ugly.

    Start plotting your offseason plans, Shamrock fans. This one is finished.

Evan Fournier Belongs in Boston's Future

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    On the surface, Boston nabbed Evan Fournier to beef up its playoff run before he went out into the open market as an unrestricted free agent. But the Celtics are really hoping he'll stick around longer.

    "We don't acquire Evan with the idea that he'll be with us just for this year," Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge told reporters in March. "We acquire him with the idea he could be here potentially for a long time."

    Fournier's Celtics tenure got off to a turbulent start, first with an 0-for-10 debut, then with a brutal bout with COVID-19. But the skilled swingman finally settled in during May and now looks like the kind of player this club should want to keep around.

    The 28-year-old hasn't had the greatest series against the Nets—good luck naming the Celtic who has—but even then, he's 6-of-9 from three-point range, has 26 points on 19 shots and never turned the ball over across 39 minutes in Game 1.

    It's easy to envision a strong fit for Fournier in this offense, especially when the Celtics are at full strength.

Kemba Walker's Future Looks Grim

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The Kemba Walker roller coaster continues.

    His good game in this series saw him provide 17 points on 45 percent shooting and seven assists. Those are fine numbers, but not quite what you'd want from someone making north of $34 million—especially when Boston was outscored by 18 points during his 30 minutes.

    However, it was certainly an improvement from Game 1, when Walker had 15 points on 16 shots, more turnovers than assists (3-2) and a game-worst minus-21 in 27 minutes.

    Injuries have nagged him throughout the season, but he is 31, so those shouldn't be expected to magically disappear. It's worth wondering if this is the start of his decline, and if so, it might come swiftly since his 6'0", 184-pound frame is a liability even when he's right.

    The Celtics will continue paying him like a star the next two seasons. (At this rate, there is zero chance he's walking away from a $37.7 million player option for 2022-23.) If two games of this series have taught us anything it's that Boston should forget about a return to stardom and simply hope it can find a role that allows him to add positive value over the rest of this contract.