2021 NBA Playoffs: Simulating Celtics vs. Nets first-round series

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Celtics-Nets playoff simulation: Do C’s stand a chance in Round 1? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Celtics took down the red-hot Washington Wizards on Tuesday, and their reward is the current NBA title favorites.

The No. 7 seed Celtics will face the No. 2 seed Nets in the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs, with Game 1 set for Saturday in Brooklyn. That means a matchup with the three-headed monster of Kevin Durant, James Harden and ex-Celtic Kyrie Irving, who are all finally healthy for the postseason.

Boston will be a heavy underdog in this series without injured All-Star Jaylen Brown. But do the C’s have a chance of making things somewhat interesting?

Forsberg: Tatum's heroics serve as important reminder for Celtics

Our partners at Strat-O-Matic simulated the full Boston-Brooklyn series to find out. Read on for the results, which include full stats and a game-by-game breakdown of the simulated matchup.

Game 1: Nets 133, Celtics 130 (Nets lead series 1-0)

NBC Sports Boston Illustration

After dropping 50 points on the Wizards, Jayson Tatum puts the Celtics on his back again with a 43-point effort that nearly results in an upset victory.

The C's lead by as many as 16 points in the third quarter, but a fourth-quarter surge propels the Nets to victory. Harden leads Brooklyn with 33 points, while Irving (28 points, 12 rebounds) delivers to deny Boston a golden opportunity.

Game 2: Nets 131, Celtics 99 (Nets lead 2-0)

NBC Sports Boston Illustration

Things look bleak for the Celtics after this one. Brooklyn flexes its offensive muscle by putting five players in double figures (led by Harden's 33 points), while the Nets' defense limits Boston to 14 second-quarter points to take a 22-point lead into halftime.

Kemba Walker (27 points) is the Celtics' lone bright spot as they head to Boston trailing 0-2.

Game 3: Celtics 128, Nets 99 (Nets lead 2-1)

NBC Sports Boston Illustration

How's this for a statement? Tatum steals the spotlight in Irving's first game back to TD Garden with fans in attendance, going off for 45 points and 13 rebounds in a near mirror-image of Brooklyn's Game 2 rout.

The Celtics start the game on a 13-0 run and never look back in an impressive wire-to-wire victory against the heavily-favored Nets. Walker chips in 21 points, while Boston's reserves get some rare run with Brad Stevens' club up big late.

Game 4: Nets 124, Celtics 110 (Nets lead 3-1)

NBC Sports Boston Illustration

Brooklyn brings Boston back to reality in Game 4 with a balanced attack. Sharpshooter Joe Harris (27 points) leads five Nets players in double figures, as the visitors use a 33-16 second-quarter run and a 10-0 third quarter run to keep their lead in double digits.

Tatum (28 points) and Tristan Thompson (16 rebounds) deliver valiant efforts for the Celtics, but the talent gap between the two teams begins to show.

Game 5: Nets 132, Celtics 93 (Nets win series 4-1)

NBC Sports Boston Illustration

The Nets aren't messing around, folks. The Celtics seem determined to force a Game 6 with a 42-point first quarter, but it's all Brooklyn after that, as Boston musters just 51 points over the final three quarters in a series-ending rout.

Tatum again leads the C's with 30 points, but Irving's 26 points and 11 rebounds are too much for his old club to handle as the Nets punch their ticket to Round 2.

Final series stats and takeaways

NBC Sports Boston Illustration

If you're looking for silver linings, Tatum continued to shine on the postseason stage, averaging 30.8 points and 7.4 rebounds over five games while leading the Celtics in scoring in all but one contest.

Walker also stepped up with 20.4 points per game, arguably validating Boston's decision to rest him on the second night of back-to-backs to keep him fresh for the postseason. Thompson raised his game as well by easily averaging a double-double.

That's the good news. The bad news is the C's didn't have much help outside that trio. Evan Fournier (14.8 points per game) was the only other Celtic to average double figures, as Boston's rotation players couldn't hold a candle to a team that can bring Blake Griffin, Jeff Green and Landry Shamet off the bench.

That the Celtics even took a game off the Nets without Brown in this simulation is an accomplishment. If they wanted to avoid a different fate, they needed to play with more consistency and urgency in the regular season.