The Boston Celtics are playing with house money in their series with the Brooklyn Nets, and for a good chunk of Saturday night, it looked like they might start off with a stunner.
After controlling play for much of the first two quarters, the Celtics squandered their advantage in the second half and fell 104-93 to the Nets in Game 1 of the first-round NBA playoff series.
While it ultimately was a bad night for Boston, Robert Williams was an absolute delight to watch. The third-year big man blocked nine shots (one shy of the NBA record), grabbing as many rebounds while contributing 11 points.
Jayson Tatum led the Celtics — who made just one 3-pointer in the second half — with 22 points. Marcus Smart (17 points), Kemba Walker (15) and Evan Fournier (10) also posted double-digit scoring.
Brooklyn got contributions from the usual suspects. Kevin Durant led the way with 32 points. Kyrie Irving (29 points), James Harden (21) and Joe Harris (10) also scored in double figures.
The Nets lead the series 1-0.
Here’s how it all went down.
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Evan Fournier
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Tristan Thompson
Despite everyone thought the Celtics would just get waxed, they actually got off to a hot start. They finished the first 12 minutes ahead 21-16.
Boston jumped out to an 18-10 lead across the first nearly seven minutes thanks to the Tatum-Walker combination, which accounted for all but six of those points.
The Celtics were scoreless in the first without Tatum on the floor, and in the 2:12 that he sat was when Boston cooled and the Nets climbed back in.
Robert Williams, who was a game-time decision, sure looked healthy. He swatted a couple of shots, including a monster denial of Kyrie Irving.
Boston had a few nice runs in the second, but the Nets ultimately kept pace. The Celtics outscored Brooklyn 32-31 in the second to go into the break up 53-47.
The Celtics really started rolling early in the second quarter, going up by 12 before forcing Steve Nash into a timeout just 2:47 into the period. They had started the stanza on an 11-4 run.
Unsurprisingly, the Nets hung around. The lion’s share of the second quarter was a back-and-forth battle, with the two sides trading chances much of the way.
Walker got himself into a little bit of foul trouble because Brooklyn was making a point of going after him. Historically someone who doesn’t rack up fouls, Walker had three in the first half.
Durant led all players with 16 points in the first half. Tatum paced the Celtics with 15.
After controlling play most of the first half, the Celtics started slipping in the third. At that point, the game started playing out as many thought it would, with Brooklyn driving the bus. The hosts outscored the Celtics 31-20 in the third to go into the fourth ahead 78-73.
The Nets quickly erased the deficit in the third, and they did so in a big way.
Brooklyn started pummeling the Celtics right out of the gate, with an 18-4 run — that at one point was 11-0 — putting them ahead 65-57 over the first 4:44 of the quarter.
Such a situation has completely deflated this C’s team at times this season, but to their credit they continued to push. Boston buckled down, regrouped and answered the Nets’ offensive onslaught to keep the game within arm’s reach.
THAT’S ALL, FOLKS
For about half of the fourth quarter, the Celtics looked like they might be able to make it a game.
Brooklyn quickly squashed those hopes and cruised to victory.
With the Celtics behind by three, the Nets put together a quick 7-0 run over 50 seconds that put them up 89-79 with 5:48 to play, effectively securing the win. From there, that Nets fairly comfortably kept their lead in the double digits to close the door.
PLAY OF THE GAME
A nice play that almost looks better in photo form.
The Celtics and Nets will meet for Game 2 on Tuesday. Tip from Barclays Center is set for 7:30 p.m. ET.