After a unique 72-game season and a thrilling inaugural play-in tournament, the 2021 NBA Playoffs are finally set to begin.
In one of the marquee matchups of the Eastern Conference, the stacked Brooklyn Nets are facing off against the gutsy but struggling Boston Celtics in a best-of-seven series starting on Saturday, May 22 (Sunday, May 23, Manila time).
Although the Celtics are the clear underdogs in this matchup, this series is just as important a test for the Nets, who thave had their season marred by inconsistent lineups day in and day out.
In 72 games, the new “Big Three” of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden, as powerful as they may be, have played together as a trio for less than 10 games.
Former All-Star Blake Griffin has been a shell of himself since leaving Detroit for Brooklyn, while LaMarcus Aldridge only played five Nets games before retiring due to a long-standing bout with irregular heartbeats.
And while Hall of Famer Steve Nash has excelled in a number of high-profile playoff series in his career, he is untested from the sidelines as this will be his first postseason as a head coach.
However, it will also not be an easy series by any means for the battle-tested Boston squad as they will have to go the rest of the way without first-time All-Star Jaylen Brown.
With Boston having a talented but inexperienced bench, this leaves the trio of Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker, and a banged-up Marcus Smart to pick up the slack on both ends.
On paper, this is a thrilling series with a new super team taking on an experienced squad that just reached the Eastern Conference Finals in 2020.
But both squads still have more questions than answers up to this point of the season and are just making the most of what warm bodies they can deploy on the court.
Will the Nets finally find the healthy streak they are looking for all season long to move forward or will the Celtics pull off a massive upset to make up for a mediocre regular season?