To the surprise of no one, the Boston Celtics didn’t do against the Brooklyn Nets. Instead, the C’s died at the hands of one of the NBA’s most-talented teams.
The Celtics fell to the Nets 123-109 on Tuesday night at Barclays Center in Game 5 of their first-round NBA playoffs series. The result clinched the series win for Brooklyn and ended Boston’s 2020-21 season.
James Harden dominated proceedings, notching a triple-double with 34 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists on his unstoppable night. Fellow superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving chipped in with 22 and 23 points, respectively.
Jayson Tatum led Celtics with 32 points, nine rebounds and five assists. However, without the services of the injured Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker and Robert Williams, the Celtics unsuccessfully relied on Marcus Smart (14 points), Evan Fournier (17) and Romeo Langford as Tatum’s primary sidekicks.
The Celtics shot 43 percent from the field but just 27.5 percent on 11-of-40 shooting from 3-point range. The Nets shot 51.2 percent, including 15-of-32 and 46.9 percent 3-point shooting.
The Nets win the series 4-1.
Here’s how it all went down:
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Romeo Langford
SF: Evan Fournier
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Tristan Thompson
The Celtics either led the Nets or kept a tie score until there was 2:41 remaining in the first period. However, the C’s weren’t able to pull away during their most-competitive period largely due to an inability to make shots that plagued them throughout the quarter: 9-for-29 field-goal shooting (31 percent), including 3-for-16 (18.8 percent) from 3-point range.
Furthermore, the Nets hurt the Celtics in transition, scoring 22 of their 31 points in the paint.
Brooklyn led Boston 31-24 after the first quarter.
HANGING IN THERE
The Celtics’ second unit tried to keep pace with Brooklyn in the second with Jabari Parker scoring 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting, Grant Williams influenced proceedings with his rebounding and energy and Payton Pritchard boosted Boston with four assists in the first six-plus minutes alone.
However, Harden continued to serve as an expert facilitator, dishing out nine assists in the first half alone.
That’s in addition to the Brooklyn superstar scoring from far and near.
In addition to his nine assists, Harden led all scorers in the first half with 18 points. He also grabbed seven rebounds. Irving was second in scoring with 15 points.
Meanwhile, Tatum continued to struggle from the field. He shot four-for-13 for 30.8 percent from 2-point range, and one-for-five from 3-point range.
Brooklyn led 59-51 at the half.
The Nets initially extended their lead to double-digits early in the third with Durant, Harden and Blake Griffin providing much of their offense.
Boston was down by 14 with with 6:55 remaining but cut Brooklyn’s advantage in half with a 7-0 run as Parker, Smart and Tatum each scored in quick succession.
Tatum scored nine points in the third quarter, Smart added seven, and Langford had six, including three from long range.
Boston trailed 86-79 after three.
THAT’S ALL SHE WROTE
The Nets pulled away for good in the opening stages of the fourth quarter. Nicolas Claxton stuffed home a pair of alley-oops, extending Brooklyn’s lead to 13. Later, Durant and Irving hit back-to-back 3-pointers, and Harden added another in a mid-quarter surge, which put Brooklyn up by 15 with 6:47 left to play.
From there, the game effectively was over, bar a little more shooting.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Tatum’s third-quarter-ending 3-pointer wasn’t so bad.
The Celtics’ 2020-21 NBA season reaches its merciful and predicted end. President of basketball operations Danny Ainge recently said offseason changes are afoot, but those likely will come weeks or months down the road.