Brooklyn’s Big Three proved to be too much for the Boston Celtics as they clinched the victory. Despite their best players having fewer than 20 games on the court together, Brooklyn looked like a well-oiled machine, dismantling the Celtics in five games. Let’s look back at how this Nets-Celtics series played out.
NBA Playoffs Recap: Brooklyn Nets vs. Boston Celtics
Home Court Advantage
Fans have finally returned to NBA stands and the Nets put on a show for theirs in the first two games. Game one saw Boston jumping out to an early lead, holding onto it until halftime. The Nets offense exploded in the third quarter, and Boston could not mount a comeback in the fourth. Brooklyn leaned heavily on their triumvirate for this win. The Big Three combined for 82 of the teams 104 points in their first playoff game as a unit. Kevin Durant led the way with a 32-point double-double, despite a poor shooting night from beyond the arc. The Celtics used a balanced attack, with five players in double figures. Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker combined for 37 points, but poor shooting and turnovers did not help their cause.
Game two was more of the same. This time, the Nets jumped out to the early lead, dominating both quarters of the first half on their way to a 24-point lead by the break. Although the second half was much more competitive, it was too little, too late for Boston. Tatum struggled mightily from the field, and the Celtics got no help from their bench. All five of Brooklyn’s starters hit the double-digit points mark, with Blake Griffin turning back the clock for some monster dunks. Joe Harris showed what can happen if defenses focus solely on the Big Three with his 25 point night.
A One-Man Army
Tensions rose for game three in Boston. Kyrie Irving spoke out about issues that he had with the fan base, which led to players and analysts chiming in with their own experiences. While the Celtics showered Irving with boos, Tatum was determined to give them something to cheer about. The All-Star forward went on a tear, outdueling Durant and James Harden on his way to a 50-point night. Boston won the first three quarters and held on to the lead, fighting off a late run from Brooklyn. Tatum was already a rising star this season and a 50 point outing in the playoffs helped to cement him as a future MVP candidate.
The Celtic faithful were back at it again in game four, booing Irving every time he touched the ball. While one could argue that this worked in game three, it certainly backfired on this night. Irving bounced back from a poor shooting night to contribute 39 points to a dominant Nets victory. Durant added 42 and the Big Three combined for 27 points from the foul-line alone. Harden showed his ability to run this offense to perfection, adding 18 assists to his stat line. The Celtics missed Walker in this one. While Tatum had another 40 point evening, it was not enough to keep pace with Brooklyn.
Unfortunately for the players, the post-game events drew more attention than the game itself. After the final buzzer, Irving appeared to stomp on the Celtics logo as he met his teammates at half court. The situation was escalated when a Boston fan threw a water bottle at Irving while the team was entering the tunnel on the way to the locker room. Luckily, the bottle missed Irving and no one was harmed. The fan was arrested and charged with assault and battery. He will also be subject to a lifetime ban from TD Garden.
Nets-Celtics: A Gentlemen’s Sweep
Brooklyn returned home eager to close out this series. The Milwaukee Bucks had already moved on to the next round. This meant that they would need to finish this series strong, allowing them to rest up as well. Brooklyn got off to a great start, taking an eight-point lead into the half and holding onto it throughout. The Celtics kept it close, but a late run iced this one for the Nets. Harden led the way with a 34-point triple-double and Tatum had 32 points in a losing effort.
Nets-Celtics: Top Performers
It will come as no surprise to see three names here for Brooklyn. Durant, Harden, and Irving had nearly equal shares in this series victory. Like Big Threes of the past, they showed how hard it is to beat a team with this many scoring options. This is impressive considering that these guys have not had a lot of game experience together. This team could get more efficient as the playoffs move forward and that is a scary thought for opponents.
The Celtics were carried by Tatum. He had three games with over 30 points and they needed every one of his 50 to get that game three win. This series could have been more competitive if Boston were healthy. For now, they can rest on the fact that they have an All-Pro forward that can lead the way for years to come.
Up Next For the Nets
The Nets will face the Bucks in the next round. Two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo will lead the way for Milwaukee, hoping to contain Durant while providing on the offensive end as well. The Bucks looked great against the Miami Heat, but that team lacks the firepower that Brooklyn has. This should be a great series, but the Nets are rightfully the favorites to advance.
Main Photo Embed from Getty Images