For one brilliant Brooklyn night, there were no defensive lapses, no questions about Joe Harris’ playoff shooting, not even any jokes about the Billy King trade.
There was just utter Nets dominance, the kind they envisioned when they went all-in for their Big 3. The kind that has them looking like championship favorites after a 130-108 Game 2 evisceration of Boston before a raucous crowd of 14,774 at Barclays Center.
Eight years after the ill-fated Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce deal with Boston that left the Nets devastated, they took a huge step toward exorcising those basketball demons. Despite mortgaging their future that day, the Nets and general manager Sean Marks have somehow managed to craft an even brighter one that was put on full display Tuesday.
Kevin Durant had a game-high 26 points, eight rebounds, five assists and took up the defensive challenge of shutting down Celtics star Jayson Tatum, holding him to nine points and 3 of 12 shooting before he left with an eye injury.
James Harden ran the team with aplomb, adding 20 points, seven assists and five boards. And after the Nets had rallied past the Celtics on Saturday behind their Big 3, they blew them out Tuesday behind Harris’ big 3s.
Harris erupted for 25 points, hitting 7 of 10 from behind the arc, tying Deron Williams’ 2015 team record for 3-pointers in a playoff game. After being smothered by the Sixers two years ago and then having to leave the Orlando bubble early last year, Harris came out red-hot right from the start.
“I think it’s a very treacherous position to not pay close attention to him,” Steve Nash had said of Harris before the game. He proved prescient.
“He does cause gravity and create open space for his teammates, he’s a threat. But he’s not out there going sideways if he doesn’t touch the ball for four or five trips. So he’s a perfect complement for our guys, our star players, but also just for our team in general.”
Just over midway through the first quarter, Harris had 16 points and had hit 4 of 4 from deep. His finger roll put the Nets up 27-13, and gave him three more points than the Celtics had.
Jeff Green followed with a jumper to pad it to 29-13, and Brooklyn never gave up the momentum.
The Nets led the Celtics 40-26 at the end of the first quarter, the third 40-point quarter in team playoff history and a franchise playoff record for points in an opening period. The rest of the evening was much of the same.
Green did leave the game with a bruised left foot, and didn’t return. But frankly, he wasn’t needed.
Brooklyn led by as much as 33.
Blake Griffin had a pair of free throws to put the Nets ahead 96-63 with 5:16 left in the third quarter. And after questions about his ability to even still dunk just a few months ago, he had a pair of monster and-one jams over Celtics shot-blocker Robert Williams III off nice passes to electrify the crowd.
Tatum did appear to get poked in the eye by Durant accidentally. He went down in front of the Boston bench and was helped off the court and into the locker room.
Brooklyn held the Celtics to 42.4 percent shooting and 12 of 34 from deep. Durant had four blocks and the Nets defended so well they hardly needed much from ex-Celtic Kyrie Irving (15 points, six assists).
“I think to be a contender, to be a successful playoff team, you have to concentrate on both sides of the ball. You just can’t outscore people,” Nash said. “As you saw in Game 1, shooting comes and goes, but you can give the same effort defensively.
“It doesn’t mean you’re going to play as well defensively, it doesn’t mean you’re going to have solutions for every answer or problem that’s posed to you during the course of a game or a series, but to have that fight and fire and the ability to concentrate and stick to the game plan, you give yourself another way to stay in the game or to get in the game or to win a game.”