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Nets go for knockout blow vs Celtics in Game 5

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2021 NBA Playoffs - Brooklyn Nets v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

One more. After losing Game 3, the Brooklyn Nets came into Game four hoping to prevent disaster and grab themselves a 3-1 series lead over the Boston Celtics. They managed to do that and then some with a statement victory on Sunday night in front of a full house in Boston. Three chances to win one game and move on.

Read about the C’s and their fight to stay alive here.

Where to follow the game

WPIX (Yes Network) and TNT for the viewers. WFAN for the listeners. Tip off after 7:30.

Join us after the game, win or lose, for a LIVE post-game chat on Clubhouse: https://www.clubhouse.com/join/netsdaily/Jbgjcuz2/M16wLj8L

Injuries

Jeff Green and Spencer Dinwiddie are out.

Jaylen Brown is out. Robert Williams didn’t play on Sunday due to his left ankle sprain. He’s listed as doubtful. Kemba Walker didn’t play on Sunday either due to a left knee medial bone bruise. He’s doubtful, too.

The game

Folks don’t know how to act, so we’re starting off the court. After the Nets finished off Game 4, Kyrie Irving was walking to the locker room with the rest of the Nets when this happened:

The dude who threw it got locked up and is facing assault charges Tuesday morning. I don’t know how many times we have to say be a decent person and not be horrible, but we’ll say it one more time. And while I’m here, if you equate getting a bottle thrown at your head with stomping on a logo, you’re a dumbass.

Whew, needed to get that off my chest. Back to business.

Speaking of business, Irving took care of it and was masterful. We noted in the preview leading up to the game that he was due to bounce back since a lot of the shots he missed were ones he usually makes, and boy did he ever make them. Irving went 11-24 from the field with six three pointers made and a perfect 11-11 from the free throw line in route to a sterling 39 points in 40 minutes. In the G4 preview, we talked about how the Nets got worked on the boards by the C’s and Irving helped reverse that trend by snagging 11 rebounds. Brooklyn hasn’t been the best rebounding team this year, so it’s going to take a team effort from top to bottom.

The other half of 7/11 was pretty groovy, too. Kevin Durant was outstanding night as his 42 points led the Nets attack. KD scored from everywhere on the court and with the groove he’s in right now, the difficulty meter of guarding the Nets goes up to a 20. Durant has gradually gotten more and more locked in and now that his shots are automatic, defenses will have to figure out which L hurts less.

For Jayson Tatum, he’s on fire but it may not be enough. After a slow start in Brooklyn, he’s crossed the 40 point plateau in back-to-back games. He’s getting to the free throw line a lot more, which serves the dual purpose of keeping pressure on the Nets defense and slowing the pace down going the other way.

Small ball Nets? Without Green, the Nets are a little bit smaller these days and the minutes distribution in Game 4 proved it. Blake Griffin only played 18:22 and Nicolas Claxton 7:59. Clax was pretty effective in his limited duty, so it’ll be interesting to see how he’s used from here. Steve Nash spoke about Claxton’s game and had this to say:

Nic had four blocks in eight minutes. He was a +14. It was much better and I thought he was really active and disruptive. He was really positive for us tonight, so hopefully, it’s something he can build on.

Don’t wanna jump the gun, but I imagine the young boy will be a lot busier coming up.

Earlier in the year, Bruce Brown did a lot of the dirty work on the boards as his insertion into the rotation helped the Nets take off. Brown was second on the team in rebounds Sunday with seven coming off the bench. The Nets are a lot scrappier than they look, and guys like Brown and Claxton will help keep things pushing along.

With Robert Williams injured, Boston is severely limited, which means Tristan Thompson will have to do it all on the boards. TT didn’t have the best of games on Sunday and Boston needs way more from him.

Player to watch: Marcus Smart

No Kemba Walker so Smart has to slot up a role. Smart was 4-12 from the field on Sunday, but he did put together nine assists. They don’t need him for scoring, but somebody’s gotta provide a little extra scoring punch now that Boston is even more shorthanded than usual. Here is where having someone like Evan Fournier was supposed to help open up their offense, but no can do on that front.

The other part of the Big Three held it down on Sunday night as well. James Harden was a shade away from a 20/20 game as his 23 points and 18 assists kept the Brooklyn registers ringing on Sunday. The role Harden plays now is to primarily keep everyone fed while 7/11 goes off, but when need be, he can go and drop 40+ as well. Harden with the second unit turned the game around in the second quarter as the Nets started to pull away and open things up. Harden applies so much downhill pressure on opponents and now that Williams is out, there is even less resistance awaiting him at the rim. An impossible situation became even more difficult for Brad Stevens and friends.

From the Vault

Closing time?

More reading: Celtics Blog