• March 26, 2023

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Brooklyn Nets’ Big 3 starts cold, erupts in 2nd half in Game 1 win over Boston Celtics

Ever since the Brooklyn Nets put together their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden four months ago, the basketball world has waited to see what these Nets would look like in the playoffs. While it took a bit for the show to start, things eventually started to look like everyone expected them to.

Following a sluggish first half that saw Brooklyn go 1-for-13 from 3-point range and trail the Boston Celtics by six at halftime, Durant, Irving and Harden combined to score the first 22 points of the second half for the Nets, powering an 18-4 run to open the third quarter by themselves and lifting Brooklyn to a 104-93 triumph on Saturday.

“I liked the way we fought,” said Harden, who had 21 points, nine rebounds, eight assists and four steals. “It just shows every game isn’t gonna be perfect.”

Brooklyn’s playoff debut was far from perfect, especially in the first half.

The Nets, who finished with the league’s top offense during the regular season, couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn to start the match. Despite getting plenty of open looks, Brooklyn went 0-for-9 from 3-point range in the first quarter, part of a 6 for 23 shooting split in the opening 12 minutes that permitted Boston to take a 21-16 lead.

Things got worse from there for Brooklyn, as the seventh-seeded Celtics went on an 11-4 run to start the second quarter to eventually take what would turn out to be Boston’s biggest lead, at 32-20, with 9:20 to go in the first half.

But rather than panic at that point, Durant said the ensuing timeout that Nets coach Steve Nash called actually allowed the team to settle down and begin to focus on getting back into the game.

“I know that sounds weird, but we came out of that timeout a little bit more settled and were able to cut the lead to six [at halftime],” Durant said. “We looked at the scoresheet and they made way more 3s than us, and we knew that our offense would start to come around.”

Durant proved to be prophetic and did his best to make sure that would be the case. Playing in his first postseason game since tearing his Achilles tendon in Game 5 of the NBA Finals two years ago, Durant — who finished with 32 points and 12 rebounds in 39 minutes — opened the second half by making a jumper before drawing a foul and making two free throws on Brooklyn’s first two offensive possessions.

He then blocked a shot to set up a Harden 3-pointer that, less than two minutes into the second half, put Brooklyn back in front. That was followed by Durant, Irving and Harden taking turns burying 3-pointers, capping that 18-4 surge in less than five minutes that definitively put the Nets in front for good.

For the game, the Celtics shot just 36.9% from the field, and after a hot start from deep, Boston finished 11-for-30 from 3-point range, including 2-for-13 in the second half.

For a team that hasn’t exactly been known for its defense all season, the Nets said they need to continue to have that kind of focus moving forward if they want to make the type of playoff run they hope to. “We stuck with our defense,” Durant said.

“We didn’t let that get in the way of what we wanted to do out there. We helped each other and boxed out well. We’ve got to keep that same effort going into Game 2.”

Steve Carr

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