Jayson Tatum proved why he belongs among the NBA’s best with a massive 39-point, six steal, six assist and five rebound performance, leading the Celtics to a 109-103 victory over the Nets in game three.
Kevin Durant once again was limited for Brooklyn, scoring just 16 points, and Jaylen Brown provided a much-needed spark in the second half as Boston took a 3-0 lead over the Brooklyn Nets saturday night Brown finished with 23 points of his own.
The Celtics attacked in transition, recording 25 fast break points. The NBA’s best defense forced 18 Brooklyn turnovers.
Robert Williams was active for the Celtics and came off the bench. Williams appeared in his first action since March 27 versus Minnesota, when he suffered a torn meniscus. After two straight victories, Head Coach Ime Udoka elected to bring Williams off the bench in his first game back. Williams finished with two points, two rebounds and one block.
Brooklyn leapt out to an early 12-5 lead after Durant woke up from his two-game slump, finding the open man when he was doubled and draining a three from the left wing. In the first two games at TD Garden, Durant had 12 combined turnovers and struggled to find his shots against the Celtics’ defense.
After the timeout down 12-5, Tatum scored eight straight points to bring Boston right back. Both teams jostled for positioning, then Boston used their league-best defense to go on a 7-0 run over just a minute of game time, stretching the lead to 26-20. Bruce Brown kept the Nets close, but two straight buckets from Tatum kept the lead at seven.
On the back of Tatum’s 12 first-quarter points, the Celtics led 30-25 after one. Smart led the Celtics with three assists, while Horford had two blocks, holding the Boston defense together.
The Celtics’ defense held strong to open the second quarter. Payton Pritchard made the most of his early minutes in the second quarter, hitting two shots in the paint and a step back three for the Celtics’ first seven points in the new period. He continued his proficiency in the second with a second 3-pointer, reaching 10 points midway through the second.
At one point, the Celtics used their defense to establish a 12-point lead, but Bruce Brown and Irving kept pushing, bringing Brooklyn to within five points. Udoka called a timeout with three minutes left in the quarter, hoping to halt Brooklyn’s momentum.
Nic Claxton made his presence felt inside, grabbing offensive rebounds and converting looks inside to keep Brooklyn close. The Celtics struggled to contain the Nets’ dribble penetration, leading to easy looks for role players like Claxton and Bruce Brown.
The Nets’ late second quarter push cut the Celtics’ lead to one point, then Smart hit a layup to end the quarter, putting Boston up 53-50 at halftime.
At the break, Tatum and Pritchard led Boston in scoring with 12 and 10 respectively. Brooklyn had three double-digit scorers in Irving, Claxton and Bruce Brown. Brown led the Nets with a game-high 16 points. Brooklyn used the offensive glass to stay in the game, recording nine offensive rebounds.
Celtics lead 53-50 at the half
Tatum – 12 points, 3 steals
Pritchard – 10 points
Brown – 8 points
Smart – 8 points
Celtics – 53.8% FGs
Celtics – 7-21 3Ps
Celtics – 7 TOs
Brown – 16 points
Irving – 10 points
Horn – 10 points
Nets – 50% FGs
Nets – 4-15 3Ps
Nets – 9 ORs
— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) April 24, 2022
A Daniel Theis three and a transition Tatum dunk opened the second half for the Celtics, rapidly stretching their modest three-point lead to eight. Nets Head Coach Steve Nash called a quick timeout with 59 seconds elapsed. Brooklyn had four turnovers in the first three minutes of the second half.
Brooklyn answered with an 8-0 run, cutting the lead back to a single possession. Just like in the first two games, game three was back-and-forth the whole way.
As Durant came alive again and Bruce Brown stayed alive, Tatum began to heat up as well. Tatum had nine points in the first six minutes of the third quarter. His third three of the night gave Boston a nine-point lead.
Despite a 10-point lead with a few minutes to go in the third, the Nets kept close with a two-minute, 7-0 run keyed by ball movement and some important stops. Defensive player of the year Smart grabbed an offensive rebound for a put back, stole the ball and hit a transition two to put up four unanswered for the C’s.
A steal and dunk for Jaylen Brown erased the previous Brooklyn run. The Celtics led 81-72 after three.
To start the fourth, the Celtics endured a big run keyed by Blake Griffin, who saw action for the first time in weeks. Jaylen Brown and Tatum kept their feet on the gas, scoring the first 12 points for the Celtics together.
Jaylen Brown reached 23 with nine points in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter.
Jaylen Brown has created the Celtics last 12 points.
-hit a short one
-hit a three
-hit a layup
-found Tatum for three
-hit to mid-range step-back
— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) April 24, 2022
The Celtics defense kept the pressure on the Nets, while the offense continued to take what was given. With six minutes left, Boston led 96-84. After a Horford three and Tatum layup, the Celtics established their largest lead of the night with four minutes remaining, 101-88.
Patty Mills hit consecutive threes to cut the Celtics lead to six with just under a minute remaining, but there was not enough time left on the clock to erase the Celtics lead. Even with two free throw attempts down six, just 22 seconds remaining was not enough for the Nets. The Celtics secured their third straight victory, 109-103.
For more postgame coverage of the Celtics third straight first-round victory, tune into the Garden Report Postgame Show LIVE on CLNS Mean right after the game. Join A Sherrod Blakely, Bobby Manning, Josue Pavon, Jimmy Toscano and host John Zannis for a full breakdown. Plus, the guys will discuss the rise of Jayson Tatum.