After blowing up a 15-point lead early on, the Brooklyn Nets spent the rest of the night chasing another in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics.
They never really got there.
The Celtics held off the Nets in the home stretch and now Brooklyn will enter Sunday’s Game 4 with a 2-1 series lead after a 125-119 loss at TD Garden.
This double-digit lead in the first few minutes was gone at the end of the first quarter, and the Nets were 10 behind before halftime. When Brooklyn finally hit the same level at 75 midway through the third quarter, the Celtics broke out on a 16-2 run and took a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter.
Closest to the Nets after that was four points off a 3-point Kevin Durant with 21.5 seconds left before the Celtics closed him out.
“They played well,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash. “I think they were a little desperate and became the aggressor after our hot start. They were the ones who sought to drive the ball. They were looking to come in in threes and they went in and so got the momentum, their crowd with them. They started to feel a bit of confidence for the first time in three games and we didn’t have enough saves.
Harden finished with 41 points for the third 40-point game in franchise playoff history, and with Durant scoring 39, they became the second group of Nets teammates to score more than 30 points in the same. playoff game.
Shooting 7 for 12 at 3 points, Harden tied the franchise’s playoff record for 3 points in a game Joe Harris tied on Sunday. He shot 11 for 18 overall and 12 for 13 from the free throw line and added 10 assists for a double-double, plus seven rebounds.
“Even though we don’t want to lose, it was probably good for us, especially after our last game where we played so well,” said Harden. “It was a good reminder for us that things won’t be that easy. We wanted to come here and win tonight. Now we have to lock in and watch the movie and keep improving. Still, this is our 10th game together, so we still have a lot to learn together and individually that we need to do. But I think it’s enough to keep watching movies and getting better. Every day we get better, whether we play the game or watch the movie tomorrow and mentally prepare ourselves.
Durant shot 13 for 24, had four three-pointers and grabbed nine rebounds with four steals. Kyrie Irving had 16 points, but Durant, Harden and Irving were the only Brooklyn players to score in double digits. The Nets were effective from a distance of 3 points, shooting 42.1%, but shot 45.2% for the game. Durant and Harden aside, the Nets shot 33.3% and their 16 assists were the fewest of the season.
“I thought for the big portions we were a bit stagnant,” Nash said. “We have moved away from our movement. I thought James was scoring on his own, Kevin scoring on his own, but I still think we can be harder to keep overall if we move the ball around and get to the isolates as a second resort. Again, like I said, we have to learn from this, take something from it. How can we refine what we do and add that to our experiences. “
Brooklyn led 19-4 less than four minutes into the game as Harden scored 10 quick points before a 3-point Harris pointer pushed the Nets up by 15. But the Celtics had eight straight points after one beat. dead, then closed the first quarter with a 10-0 run for a 33-32 lead. Boston led by a whopping 10 points in the second quarter before Brooklyn finished the half with an 8-2 run to come back to 61-57 at halftime.
Down 72-64 four minutes after the start of the third quarter, the Nets conceded nine straight points as Harden drew a goalie, followed by two free throws, then Durant hit a 3 point and Irving hit dropped into a pull-up jumper. Durant even got the Nets at 75, making 2 out of 3 free throws.
But the Celtics responded with a 16-2 run and stretched their lead to 17 points before the Nets reduced it to 96-84 heading into the fourth quarter.
Boston pushed their lead to 16 points before Harden converted a 3-point play to start a 10-2 run in Brooklyn, with Irving’s 3-pointer taking the Nets 105-97 with 7:35 to go. . Harden and Irving combined for Brooklyn’s first 18 points of the fourth quarter, but even as they narrowed the lead to six, five, four in the end on that penultimate possession, the Celtics had a response to it. every time.
“We didn’t have any saves when it counted and for a lot of the game,” Nash said. “We gave up 125 points. It’s just too many great quarters for them – they had 20s or 30s all four quarters. Not a great performance but it could be good for us. So new, that we would face a little bit of adversity to get through some of these battles and challenges and get up and look at some things tomorrow and come back on Sunday.