Best team in NBA? Kendrick Perkins has bold Celtics take after sweep of Nets


The Boston Celtics didn't just eliminate the Brooklyn Nets from the first-round of the 2022 NBA playoffs, they straight up embarrassed them.

Most experts predicted a lengthy series given the star power on both teams, but the Celtics swept the Nets in impressive fashion, including a 116-112 win in Game 4 on Monday night.

The Celtics' defense was outstanding, but they also excelled in the clutch. Boston struggled mightily in high-pressure, fourth-quarter moments throughout the regular season -- especially over the first few months -- but this group executed at a high level during these situations in Round 1. The Celtics' four wins came by an average of less than five points.

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How should we view the Celtics after such a convincing series? Ex-Celtics center Kendrick Perkins thinks they are the best team in the playoffs.

"What the Celtics have shown me is no other team in the NBA in the postseason would have swept and did what they just did to the Brooklyn Nets," Perkins said Tuesday on ESPN's "First Take". "That's how great they are defensively. We keep talking about how good and how much of a juggernaut the Golden State Warriors are, but offense wins you games and defense wins championships.

"When I look at the Celtics' defensive lineup, there's no other team that has the perimeter defenders like Boston. Jayson Tatum right now is the best two-way player in the game. Jaylen Brown, we know how he locks down defensively, and don't get me started on what Marcus Smart can do (defensively). Then you have Al Horford, Robert Williams, Grant Williams and Daniel Theis, who are all defensive-minded people. When I look at the Celtics, I look at their defense and say, who wants to face them? Who can't they stop? Look at the season series when they played the Miami Heat, I think the Celtics took it (2-1)."

Perkins added: "Jayson Tatum is a top three players in the NBA. This mean version of Tatum -- (no opponent) wants to see it. Jaylen Brown has a chip on his shoulder, and both of them are co-existing on the offensive end. Nobody wants to see this team because no team would have exposed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving like the Celtics did. Not one team in the playoffs would've swept this team like the Celtics."

Oddsmakers don't quite agree with Perkins, but it's close. Boston now has the second-best betting odds to win the 2022 NBA Finals behind the Golden State Warriors. 

The Celtics' defense really sets them apart from pretty much every other team in the postseason. The way they totally confused and shut down an elite top 15 player of all time in Durant was just sensational. Boston's defense should be even stronger in Round 2 when starting center Robert Williams continues to ramp up his playing time after returning from injury in Game 3 against the Nets.

Kendrick Perkins, Eddie House light up Kyrie Irving after Celtics sweep Nets

Boston's path to the Finals is difficult, though.

The C's likely will have to go through both the Milwaukee Bucks and the Miami Heat to win the Eastern Conference. But with Bucks star Khris Middleton out around three to four weeks with an MCL injury, the Celtics absolutely can take down the defending champs. The Heat series will be tough given Miami's strong defense, toughness and excellent coaching, but as Perkins noted, the Celtics beat them multiple times in the regular season. Boston won't lack confidence versus Miami. 

Whatever way you look at it, picking against the Celtics is pretty hard right now. No other team still standing boasts their level of balanced scoring, good coaching and phenomenal defense.

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