The Big Three of the Nets combine for 103 points while Brooklyn shot 58 percent as a team and ultimately erased all hope the seventh-seeded Celtics — playing without Kemba Walker, Robert Williams and Jaylen Brown — could come away with a Game 4 upset Sunday at TD Garden.
Brooklyn earned a 141-126 victory in Game 4 and thus split the two games in Boston en route to a 3-1 series lead in the first-round of the NBA Playoffs. The Nets turned the game around in the second quarter and ultimately put it away with a 27-point lead in the third quarter.
Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 40 points on 10-for-22 from the field. It was a respectable performance, and perhaps would have been memorable by the 17,000 who packed TD Garden for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, if not for Brooklyn’s three stellar performances.
Kevin Durant led all scorers with 42 points on 14-for-20 from the field. Kyrie Irving put together a Garden-silencing performance of 39 points on 11-for-24 from the field with 11 rebounds while James Harden scored 23 points on an efficient 8-for-12 from the floor.
Here’s how it went down:
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Evan Fournier
SF: Romeo Langford
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Tristan Thompson
The Celtics came out buzzing with the crowd behind them Sunday, and it helped Boston take a 34-33 lead after the first quarter.
Boston received early contributions from Tatum, who scored 12 points during the first seven minutes of the game. At one point, a Tatum turnaround on Durant was followed by a Langford tip-slam, which not only brought fans to their feet, but also gave the C’s a 17-9 lead.
Boston was 8-for-15 to start the game after an Evan Fournier three-point play gave the Celtics a 27-20 lead with five minutes left.
The Nets, though, used a 10-3 run to close the gap in the final minutes of the quarter. Brooklyn shot 45 percent (9-for-20) in the period. Durant led all scorers with 17 first-quarter points while Kyrie Irving added 12 of his own.
Tatum finished with 14 in the quarter for the Celtics. Smart scored six while Fournier chipped in five.
The Celtics depth was tested early on in the second quarter, and it didn’t have enough. The Nets — while going against a five-man lineup of Semi Ojeleye, Grant Williams, Payton Pritchard, Langford and Fournier — opened the period with a 12-3 run over the first 3:25.
It allowed Brooklyn to take an eight-point lead before going into the half with a 73-60 advantage. The Nets, clearly depicted with 73 first-half points, had it all working as they shot 59 percent (26-for-44) from the field. Irving put his Game 3 struggles behind him while scoring 23 first-half points despite getting booed almost every time he touched the ball.
Durant wasn’t far behind as he scored a quiet 19 points on 7-for-11 from the field while Harden scored 17 of his own on 7-for-9 from the floor. Brooklyn was led by an extended 26-13 run over the first eight minutes of the quarter.
Tatum, after scoring 12 points in the first seven minutes, went into the half with 14 points in 20-plus minutes. Smart added to his total of 13 in the half while Fournier scored 11.
NETS PUT IT AWAY
Durant scored 17 points in the third quarter as the Nets stars looked like just that. Brooklyn extended its 13-point halftime lead to 18 just 2:23 into the period and quickly added to that before claiming a 112-91 lead heading into the fourth.
Brooklyn, after a strong shooting display in the first half, shot 13-for-19 in the third. They were helped by a 13-4 scoring stretch midway through the quarter.
It was too much for Tatum and Co., despite the two-time All-Star scoring 18 points in the third alone. And as the lead grew, the more the Celtics became infatuated with the long ball. They went 10-for-32 from behind the arc through three, however.
Irving continued to add to his incredible performance, perhaps unfortunately. He finished the three quarters with 31 points including a perfect 11-for-11 at the free throw line.
There were a ton of free throws taken by both teams. The Nets went 26-for-26 at the charity stripe while the C’s going 27-for-30 through three.
NEVER IN DOUBT
The Celtics cut the deficit to 19 points, 133-114, with less than five minutes left, and it was the first time it had been under 20 since midway through the third.
Boston brought out the subs in the final minutes, depicting its 15 or so point deficit was probably not what it seemed.
Some end of game stats: Boston shot 44 percent (37-for-85) from the field ad 34 percent (14-for-41) from long range. The C’s assisted on 24 of those 37 baskets.
Smart and Fournier finished with 16 points apiece while Pritchard (12) and Aaron Nesmith (11) chipped in off the bench.
The Celtics will travel back to Brooklyn in hopes of extending the best-of-seven series. Game 5 will be held Tuesday with tip set for 7:30 p.m. ET.