Avoiding the brink of elimination, All-Star Jayson Tatum (50 points) and the Boston Celtics topped the Brooklyn Nets 125-119 in Game 3 of their best-of-7 series.
Tatum, who netted 29 of his postseason career-high 50 points in the second half, connected on 16-of-30 attempts from the floor, including 13-of-15 from the free-throw line, and 5-of-11 from deep.
Celtics’ Jayson Tatum On 50-Point Performance: ‘Just One of Those Nights’
He also finished the night with 7 assists, 6 rebounds, a pair of steals, and one block in what was truly one of Tatum’s most masterful performances of his career.
“It was just one of those nights,” Tatum said after the Celtics’ win, Friday night. “Tough shooting night the first game, and, obviously, I didn’t get to play that much last game because I got poked in my eye. So, trying to protect home court; trying to get a win at all costs. And sometimes nights like these are needed.”
Boston’s crucial Game 3 win — which pulls the series 2-1, Brooklyn — was far from a one-man show. The Celtics survived a game-opening 19-4 Nets run and it didn’t take them an entire half to do it — which was a regular-season trend for the Celtics when they oftentimes get off to slow starts.
Instead, Boston buckled down defensively — which led to consecutive stops against the Nets and catapulted the Celtics’ offense. By the end of the frame, the Celtics were ahead (33-32).
Kevin Durant On Jayson Tatum Scoring 50 Points: ‘Don’t Think He Got Anything Easy’
The defense certainly set the tone. And as Tatum started heating up on the opposite end of the floor, guys like Marcus Smart (23 points), Tristan Thompson (19 points), and Evan Fournier (17 points) found their offense with ease.
The Celtics shot at a 50.6% clip, including 16-of-39 of their 3-pointers.
“I feel like they made shots tonight,” Durant said after Friday’s loss. “Especially Tatum, he hit some tough ones over us, tonight. I don’t think he got anything easy but for a scorer like that; once you start to see the ball go through the rim, it just pushed their team to another level. So, I felt the fadeaways he was making and the step-back threes; those are his shots. But, we still have to contest them. So, I think we have to be more physical with our switches, and rebounding, and getting out in transition.
“We’ll watch some film and see how we can get better.”
Kevin Durant On Celtics’ Offense: ‘We Got To Do a Better Job of Contesting’
James Harden (41) and Kevin Durant (39), and Kyrie Irving (16) combined for monstrous 96 points in a losing effort.
“They tied us in threes. They hit 16 threes in this building,” Durant added before reading off the 3-point column of the Celtics box score on the night. “So, they got it going from the 3-point line, which is going to keep any team in a game. We got to do a better job of contesting. They shot 50% from the field. We can’t allow that. And 41% from the three? We can’t allow that. And get out-rebounded?
“We just got to be better.”
The Celtics and Nets will face off in Game 4, Sunday night at TD Garden.