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Nets mantra: ‘One down, Fifteen to go’

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Boston Celtics v Brooklyn Nets - Game One Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

The Nets don’t play again till Tuesday night and so Monday will be another chance for Brooklyn to get to know each other better, get the rust off ... and prepare for another rollicking home crowd.

“There was a lot of newness,” Steve Nash said post-game, “in many ways.”

Newness, of course, including Nash’s first playoff game ... and win. After racking up a .667 winning percentage in the regular season, a Nets record, he’s now 1.000 for the playoffs! We kid, we kid.

There were issues. Aesthetically, the offense was not a thing of beauty. Kevin Durant for example came away with 32 points, but was 1-of-8 from three. Joe Harris, the league’s leading 3-point shooter over the last four years, shot 2-of-6. Kyrie Irving and James Harden 2-of-8. And yet, the won with some clutch shooting ... and defense.

The Celtics shot 36.9 percent overall, 36.7 from deep. The individual numbers from their usually reliable shooters were even worse. Jayson Tatum, fresh from a 50-point outing, shot 6-of-20 and finished with 22; Kemba Walker shot 5-of-16 and 16 points; Evan Fournier 3-of-10 and 10. Payton Pritchard, their rookie 3-point specialist, went scoreless.

Tatum had only six points and shot only 33 percent shooting when guarded by Durant, who Nash described as the Nets best defender. Moreover, Tatum was scoreless other than some free throws when KD guarded him in the second half. That Durant is a plus-defender, particularly in the post-season, shouldn’t surprise anyone. Over the course of his 140 playoff games (89-51), KD has averaged 1.2 blocks and 1.0 steals.

“We recognized we could stay close by playing well defensively. I’m proud of that,” said the head coach who admitted “There’s still plenty of things to clean up and look at.”

One of those things to clean up is how to counter Robert Williams III, who finished one rebound and one block short of a very rare playoff points/rebounds/blocks triple-double. The nine blocks were the most in an NBA playoff game in 35 years. (Although as our Alec Sturm points out, “Of his nine rejections, only one resulted in possession for Boston. The rest either went out of bounds or to a Net.”)

“We’ll just be more aware going into Game 2,” Kyrie Irving said. “He’s shifting over every single time on every one of our drives, so we’ve just got to be a little bit smarter. But his timing is amazing.

“It’s great to see a big that’s active in our game, and he challenges you at the rim every single time. So it’s just going to test our IQ for the rest of these games, and we’ve just got to make the right play.”

“I think too many times we lined him up to go against him, and we did unnecessarily. He was outstanding and then other times [it was us],” Nash said. “He was just great, made big plays, whether it was on the ball, off the ball, used his length and athleticism. But there was times we were a little bit naive at times to go at him unnecessarily in the wrong positions.”

Another thing to get used to is the crowd. Harden admitted there was an adjustment to playing before a near sellout after playing in front of no fans through February 23, then only at most 1,700 through the end of the season.

“The crowd kind of threw me off a little bit. it was pretty loud in there, pretty,” said Harden post-game. “The vibe was what we’ve been missing. And it just threw me off a little bit.”

Durant was impressed as well by what he saw and promised better games ahead.

“It was incredible. Our fans are loud, they were there early, they gave us an advantage,” said Durant. “It was weird because we haven’t seen them all season. There was 1,500 the last couple months of the season, but to see people at the front row and even more in the upper and lower bowl, it was pretty cool. I’m sure our fans enjoyed the win, but we want to play better for them as well.”

They’ll get that opportunity Tuesday, at 7:30 when they go back to Barclays for Game 2.

Meanwhile, Celtics’ Tristan Thompson who had four points and 10 boards in 20 minutes Saturday said he and his teammates are not intimidated by the “Big Three” or the Nets in general.

“I mean, listen, if you have a team with Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving, you better step on the court feeling good about yourself,” Thompson said after Boston practiced Monday. “But we don’t give a s--- about that. At the end of the day, they put their socks on and their shoes on just like us. So, we’re not intimidated or anything like that.”

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Final numbers for the big weekend of NBA playoff action in New York...

—Nets: 14,391 (81.1 percent of 17,732 normal capacity) with 93 percent fully vaccinated.

—Knicks: 15,047 (75.9 percent of 19,812 normal capacity) with 90 percent fully vaccinated.

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