BOSTON — The clock ticked towards zero and along the Nets sideline two future Hall of Famers with more than 200 playoff games between them looked shook. This was a game Brooklyn had to win. 

Needed to win. Should have won. A 10-point halftime lead. Help from the supporting cast. A Celtics defense that in the first half allowed the Nets to shoot 61%. A team with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving would have to kick the game away to lose this one.

And it did. Badly. The Nets shot 31% in the second half. Durant, in those final 24 minutes, didn’t make a field goal. Irving, lustily booed for the second game in a row, finished 4-of-13. Seven Celtics finished in double-figures. 

Payton Pritchard— Payton Pritchard!—scored 10 in 16 minutes. Durant and Irving rank among the NBA’s most feared fourth-quarter scorers. Boston throttled the Nets 29–17 over the final 12 minutes.

Boston 114, Brooklyn 107. The Celtics take a 2–0 series lead. And the Nets are in a world of trouble

For weeks, Brooklyn was the NBA’s boogeyman. Two games against the Celtics and the Nets have been exposed. Durant looks tired. He averaged 41 minutes per game in the final five games of the regular season.

He logged 42 in the play-in game. Against Boston, Durant isn’t just matching up with good defenders. He’s wrestling with them. He’s scored 50 points in the first two games of this series. He’s needed 41 shots to do it.

“They’re being physical,” said Steve Nash. “They’re up and into him, grabbing him, holding him, all that stuff you come to expect. He’s been uncomfortable and hasn’t looked like he’s been able to get his rhythm.”