Intro to game 4 of Celtics vs. Nets: Three key stories to watch

The Boston Celtics wanted all the smoke, and now they’re one game away from extinguishing the Brooklyn Nets.

The Celtics have a 3-0 lead in the first-round series over Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and a Nets team that many thought should avoid making the NBA playoffs. Boston can complete Monday night’s series sweep in Game 4 with a win at Barclays Center.

It’s hard to imagine Brooklyn not winning a single playoff game with Durant and Irving, but the two superstars looked beaten after the Nets’ Game 3 loss on Saturday night, and head coach Steve Nash suggested fatigue was a factor for the duo.

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So will the Nets turn around and allow the Celtics to knock them out of the first round? Or will they make a stop to send the series back to Boston for Game 5? These are the stories we’re seeing ahead of tonight’s Game 4 in Brooklyn.

How to watch Celtics vs. Nets

Start time: Celtics Pregame Live begins on NBC Sports Boston at 6 p.m. Eastern time. Celtics vs. Nets will start in 7 p.m. Eastern Time at Barclays Center.

Television channel: nbc sports boston

Live broadcast: NBC Sports Boston and the MyTeams app

1. Have the Celtics broken the spirit of the Nets?

Celtics big man Kendrick Perkins blasted Brooklyn after Game 3, noting how Boston has “snatched the soul out of the Nets” and criticized Durant for putting the Nets in this situation to begin with.

The Celtics deserve a lot of credit here, having worn down Durant and Irving with ferocious defense while relying on a team-wide effort to soak up Brooklyn’s best shots. The Nets officially ruled out Ben Simmons for Game 4, and it’s hard not to see that decision as waving the white flag in this series.

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Yet it’s also hard to imagine a player of Durant’s caliber letting his team get swept away. It will be interesting to see if Brooklyn comes out with a “backs against the wall” urgency tonight, or if Irving pulls off a disappearing act for the third straight game and the Nets go down without a fight.

2. Will Scott Foster affect Boston’s defensive game plan?

The Celtics have found great success with a physical defensive strategy, giving Durant zero airspace and weakening him as much as possible. But Durant could get some extra whistles in Game 3.

That’s because veteran NBA referee Scott Foster has been assigned as the crew chief for Game 4 of the Celtics-Nets. those contests, the second most of any NBA team.

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Don’t expect Boston to change what it does defensively based on umpire assignments. But don’t be surprised if Durant puts up a similar performance from Game 2, when he attempted 20 (!) free throws in a game Brooklyn led late in the second half.

3. Can Robert Williams go one step further?

Robert Williams showed flashes of promise in his first game from rear knee surgery, recording a dunk, a pair of rebounds, an assist and a block in 16 minutes of action.

Head coach Ime Udoka admitted he would have played Williams more had the game been closer, so Celtics fans should expect to see more of the Time Lord in Game 4. Williams is crucial to Boston’s success in both ends of the court, so the closer he is at full throttle, the better getting into a potential second-round matchup with the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks.

The Celtics should do everything in their power to win tonight, but if Brooklyn forces a Game 5, there could be a silver lining in Williams having more time to acclimate before Round 2.

Note: Game 4-6 of the Brooklyn Nets-Boston Celtics series will air exclusively on NBC Sports Boston and can also be streamed on NBCSportsBoston.com or with the MyTeams app, which you can download below.

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