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Nets put out statement win, blow out Celtics in Game 2, 130-108

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Boston Celtics v Brooklyn Nets - Game Two Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

After Game 1, Kevin Durant said he was sure the fans enjoyed the win but wanted to play better for them. KD and the Nets delivered on that promise in dominant fashion in Game 2.

The Nets delivered a statement win, defeating the Celtics, 130-108 to take a 2-0 series lead. With the win, Brooklyn extends their postseason winning streak over Boston to nine games.

“I thought defensively we played hard. Our intensity was there. We fought and scrapped and had a good first half defensively. Compared to the first game, we made shots and were hot to start the game. We played pretty well on both ends of the floor, but most importantly our guys came out with the right spirit,” said Steve Nash on the Game 2 victory.

Joe Harris — who exploded in the first quarter — had a career postseason performance, stuffing the box score with an elite sharpshooting performance. Harris set a Nets franchise record for threes made in the postseason going 7-of-10 from behind the arc. Overall, he was 9-of-14 shooting from the field to finish with 25 points to go along with four rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block in 29 minutes of play.

“He was phenomenal tonight and definitely gives you a lift and the team some belief and energy when the ball goes in the basket like that,” said Nash on Harris’ performance.

Beyond Harris’ elite performance, Kevin Durant also had a strong shooting performance, finishing with 26 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the field and 2-of-2 from deep in 19 minutes. The Nets superstar logged eight rebounds, five assists and four blocks.

James Harden followed with 20 points, seven assists and five rebounds in 27 minutes of play. Although Harden’s performance in Game 2 is highlighted by Harris’ hot shooting, he doesn’t put his scoring over forging opportunities for his teammates while reading the flow of the contest.

“It’s not about scoring for me. It’s about doing everything else and ultimately we got the win so that's all that matters,” said Harden on his performance. “Joe got it going and we all knew that and me, KD, and Kai just chipped in where we needed to. It's all a team effort. Whatever it takes to win, we will do.”

Brooklyn finished with three other players in double-figures — Kyrie Irving (15), Landry Shamet (10) and Blake Griffin (11) and the team played 14 of their 15 players with DeAndre Jordan being the only DNP. Brooklyn is now an eye-popping 32-3 when their prolific offense scores 120+ points and 21-2 when they score 130+.

Beyond the outpour of scoring, Brooklyn displayed their best ball movement showcase of the postseason, dishing 31 assists on 46 made shots with all of the Nets starters recording at least three assists — a category the Nets head coach wants to make a habit of moving forward.

“Whenever the ball moves, we’re very difficult to defend. We can score in isolation, but the more the ball moves, we knock the first domino down and the other team is chasing. We’re excellent in those situations,” said Nash on ball movement. “We want to make that more of a habit for us and that takes some time, but tonight was a good indicator of where we can go with that and how we should double-down on that.”

For the Celtics, who head back to TD Garden in a worrisome hole, Marcus Smart led the team with 19 points in 32 minutes followed by Kemba Walker with 17 points in 30 minutes. Boston had only four players finish in double-figures in the tough loss. Robert Williams who had nine blocks in Game 1 didn’t record a single block in Game 2.

Jayson Tatum, who left the game in the third after being poked in the eye by Durant, scored only nine points on 3-of-12 shooting in 20 minutes of play.

“He can go off and score in bunches, but I think we are doing a good job of forcing him off the three-point line a little more and contesting his shots,” said Durant on guarding Tatum. “He’s Jayson Tatum. He’s going to make shots. I feel like some of his shots he took tonight he can easily make them. He’s a tough shot maker. I’m glad we can get a contest on most of his shots.”

Brooklyn opened the contest with their foot on the gas and put on an offensive clinic that Boston certainly wasn’t pleased with.

The Nets focused on a high tempo and moving the ball efficiently early looking for open shots. Brooklyn’s ball movement led to some hot shooting, with the team dishing six assists on seven made shots. Joe Harris made his first two threes to give the Nets an early 19-13 lead but that was just the start.

“It’s a nice luxury to have when he’s banging in three balls like that and catches off to a good start and gets the crowd into the game,” said Nash on Harris’ hot shooting start.

As the quarter wore on, Brooklyn continued their offensive onslaught led by Harris — who scored 16 (a career-high in a single quarter) of the team’s 40 first-quarter points— with an extended 16-0 run to balloon their lead to 30-18 while Boston was desperately searching for any answer on the defensive end out of their timeout.

The Nets went on to shoot 61.5 percent from the field and 66.7 percent from deep in the opening frame while holding the Celtics to under 37 percent from all areas of the floor — and only 26 points, highlighted by Tatum to only three points in the frame.

It got worse for Boston in the second as Brooklyn controlled the entirety of the quarter. The Nets upped their offensive clinic through even more stellar ball movement — 19 assists on 26 made shots — outscoring the Celtics 31-21 in the second behind the sharpshooting of Harris, who concluded the dominant first half with a team-high 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field and 6-of-8 from deep. His six threes made in the first half marked a franchise record in the postseason.

Kevin Durant — 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting from the field and 2-2 from deep — and James Harden — 10 points, a team-high five assists and three rebounds were the other two Nets in double-figures at the break to help lift the Nets to a commanding 30-point lead at the intermission.

Meanwhile, the Celtics were out of sync offensively with the Nets putting Tatum in tough shot situations and limiting him to only seven points on 2-of-10 shooting from the field and 1-of-3 from deep. Boston concluded their rough first half with nine turnovers that translated to 17 points for Brooklyn.

With 8:46 remaining in the third, both teams faced injury concerns. Jeff Green was downgraded from “questionable to return” to ”out for the remainder of the game” with a bruised foot but the Celtics had a larger concern on the injury side.

After tussling for an offensive rebound, Tatum received that accidental eye-poke from Durant. The Celtics young star dribbled from the paint to the Celtics bench before going down nursing his left eye and went to the locker room shortly after Boston called a timeout. Boston ruled Tatum out for the remainder of the contest after the conclusion of the third.

Brooklyn then forged an 11-0 run off Harden’s facilitating to boost their lead to 84-58 with 7:29 remaining in the third followed by two huge left-handed and-one dunks from Griffin that electrified the Barclays Center crowd.

Per Statsmuse, the two slams gave Griffin 19 in his first 28 games with Brooklyn ... after not dunking for 464 days while with the Pistons.

It was clear that frustration started to brew for the Celtics in the third when Evan Fournier and Durant had to be separated after jawing at each other, but no technicals were assessed and both players were restrained.

Despite Smart giving the Celtics some life, hitting four straight threes for Boston in the closing minutes of the third, Brooklyn finished the third frame strong — which included an emphatic Durant rejection — to head into the final 12 minutes of play with a 109-82 lead.

Harden was the only big three to play in the fourth quarter and at the Nash gradually unleashed the bench subbing in Mike James, Tyler Johnson, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Alize Johnson, and Reggie Perry to finish the win. Both James and Perry made their post-season debut.

The Film Room

The Nets were locked in.

Brooklyn had itself its best first half of the season followed up by a lethal third-quarter. The Nets, especially its guards, were flying defensively. But the big story was the offense — it was CLICKING.

“I thought, for sure, our spacing was definitely better,” said Joe Harris, “I thought that we did a better job of getting in transition too. A lot of looks we got early on we got stops and we pushed.”

It didn’t help that Boston basically gave the game away in transition in the first few minutes of the game. You’ll see it in the clips above, but Boston left maybe the most dangerous player — Joe Harris, no big deal — open in the fast break. That led to loads and loads of threes which gave Brooklyn the confidence it needed to absolutely eviscerate the poor Celtics. Here’s yet another example.

You could tell the Nets were in a different type of zone from basically the first minute. Below, the Nets run an ATO that has become one of Steve Nash’s pet plays. To begin, a player (Joe Harris here) creeps up toward another player (James Harden) to set a back screen but then flips that screen at the very last minute. Normally, that takes advantage of a defense switching in preparation for a cut to the basket.

Boston does a pretty nice job defending this ATO, switching while hugging close to Harden on the perimeter. So instead, Brooklyn flows into a dribble-handoff between Blake Griffin and Harden, Blake’s screen clips Evan Fournier, and Griffin rolls to the rim while Evan Fournier appears to be incredibly confused about who he is supposed to be guarding.

Once the Nets started going on their onslaught, the Celtics were basically in scramble mode. On this Harden step-back three, Jabari Parker and Robert Williams completely miscommunicate while as Harden readies his shot. Parker appears to be preoccupied with Nicolas Claxton’s slip to the basket, Williams is... just out of position period.

When Brooklyn’s stars are as hot as they were on Tuesday, it makes opponents lose track of their principles and sometimes completely forget how to play basketball altogether. Look, Kevin Durant is a great post-up player, but this post-touch is practically 20 feet from the basket. For Evan Fournier to get caught ball-watching in this position is just... sad.

There’s no stopping this group when the ball is humming around the perimeter like it was in Game 2, especially with the defense locked and loaded.

Kyrie Irving on Boston return: “I hope we can keep it strictly basketball”

Kyrie Irving will be making his return to Boston on Friday to play in front of fans at the TD Garden for the very first time since his exit in 2019. Though Irving is excited to get out there with his Nets teammates and take care of business up 2-0 against the Celtics, he’s expecting... just about anything from the TD Garden crowd.

“It’s not my first time being an opponent in Boston so I’m just looking forward to competing with my teammates and hopefully we can just keep it strictly basketball, there’s not belligerence or racism or anything going on, subtle racism or people yelling s—t from the crowd,” said Kyrie. “But even if it is, it’s part of the nature of the game and we’re just going to focus on what we can control.”

Hopefully, things stay civil at Boston’s home arena.

Steve Nash sends condolences to Floyd family

Before answering any questions on adjustments for Game 2, Steve Nash made sure to send condolences to George Floyd’s family on the one-year anniversary of his tragic passing.

“I just wanted to say my condolences to his family. Social justice is a very, very important issue in our country and in our world,” said Nash. “It’s about education, conversation, and action. The more people that are talking about it, that are educating themselves on it, and they’re finding a way to get more active is only going to help us have a better country, a better society, a better community, and have more love for one another.”

Bravo.

Milestone Watch ... continued

—The Nets are now 21-2 when they score 130 points and 32-3 when they score 120.

—Joe Harris tied the Nets Playoff record for 3-pointers made in a game with seven. Deron Williams made seven 3-pointers in Game 4 of the Nets’ first round series vs. Atlanta on April 27, 2015. Harris set the Nets record for most 3-pointers in a post-season half with six, breaking Mirza Teletovic’s record on May 8, 2014.

—Brooklyn’s 40 points in the first quarter tied the most ever for the Nets in a first quarter in post-season. It happened twice before. The Nets also broke the franchise record for most points after three quarters. They had 109, beating the old record by 14.

—Their 71 first half points came within two of the franchise record set 35 years ago, their 24 point lead was also one point short of the record 25 set in the 2013 playoffs vs. Chicago

—James Harden’s second 3-pointer of the game was the 321st of his playoff career. Harden has moved past Reggie Miller (320) into sixth place in NBA Playoff history in 3-pointers made. Harden made two more to finish the game with 323, one short of reaching the top five in post-season play. Next up: Manu Ginobili with 324. Once Harden passes Manu, he will be fifth All-Time in 3-pointers made both in regular season and the playoffs.

—Kevin Durant now has 106 career 25-point games in the postseason, breaking a tie with Jerry West for the sixth-most such games in NBA history.

Thanks to the Nets PR staff and Statsmuse for all that data.

Attendance rises a bit, as does percentage vaccinated

The announced attendance for Game 2 was a robust 14,774 with 94 percent of the fans sitting in fully vaccinated sections. That number is considered a pandemic sellout, that is one that takes into account that unvaccinated sections require more open seating to accommodate socially distancing.

That’s up slightly from Saturday when the numbers were 14.391 and 93 percent. As more and more New Yorkers in particular get fully vaccinated, expect those numbers to go up. The 14,774 represents 83.3 percent of the arena capacity under normal conditions.

Tsai Synergy

Among the celebrities at Barclays last night were two members of the New York Liberty, Sabrina Ionescu and Joyce Willoughby who sat courtside with Clara Wu Tsai, Joe’s wife and co-governor of the Libs.

Also, Tuesday night, Joe Tsai took to Twitter to excoriate the New York Daily News for depicting mayoral candidate Andrew Yang as “a tourist” in an editorial cartoon, calling it “blatantly racist.” In doing so, he retweeted comments by Yang’s wife.

As Sponge Bog might say...

Per Will Hanley.

What’s next

The Nets will be back in action when the team travels to Boston to face the Celtics in Game 3 on Friday, May 28. The game is set to tip at 8:30 PM ET.

For a different perspective, check out CelticsBlog - our sister site covering the Celtics.