Jayson Tatum Drops 50 as Nets Struggle in Game 3 Loss


Final: 05/28/2021

L 119 125

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The Nets are going to get punches thrown at them this postseason. The question is how they answer back.

Though Brooklyn jumped out to an early 15-point lead, the Celtics forced a 32-point swing and took a 125-119 Game 3 victory in Boston. Jayson Tatum went off for 50 points, the most scored by a player against the Nets in a playoff game, as Boston cuts the Nets’ series lead to 2-1.

The Nets were able to cut the deficit to as little as four with under 30 seconds left after previously missing a few chances to cut it to a one-possession game, but they were not able to break the barrier. Brooklyn’s defense let them down yet again as the Celtics had answers and closed things out.

Brooklyn never found the right formula defensively to halt Boston’s 50.6% shooting and 16-of-39 from three. At times the three-point makes seemed neverending, with everyone getting involved from Tatum to Evan Fournier to Marcus Smart.

The defensive (and offensive) lulls came as a bit of a surprise after the Nets opened the game with shots firing offensively. Brooklyn picked up where they left off in its dominant Game 2 showing and went on a 19-4 run in the blink of an eye.

The momentum did not last long for the Nets, though, as the Celtics quickly swung things in their favor. The Nets did a poor job covering Boston on the perimeter while Tristan Thompson got his way inside.

The Celtics feasted early on offensive rebounds (they finished with a 13-10 advantage, thanks to Tristan) as the Nets missed Jeff Green’s presence and IQ in the lineup. Boston also made the most of Brooklyn’s mistakes, scoring 18 points off the Nets’ nine turnovers.

Though the Celtics were the more dominant team throughout the night, Brooklyn made a second push in the third quarter to take its first lead since the first quarter. The advantage did not last long, though, as the Celtics picked up their offense once again and went on a 19-4 run of their own.

James Harden led the Nets with 41 points and Kevin Durant added 39, but there was little offensive help otherwise as the bench tallied just 11 points on the night. The offense was there as the team shot 45.2% overall and 16-of-38 from the three-point range, but the depth was lacking and the team especially struggled while Harden was on the bench.

Kyrie Irving fell flat in his first homecoming to Boston with fans in the crowd as he was booed each time he touched the ball. He made some key shots to try to gain momentum in the fourth quarter, but it was not enough to pull all the way back.

The Nets are going to be tested this postseason, and Game 3 was the first big one. They countered some of the punches but ultimately could not pull things together — not even Big Three hero ball was enough.

This series is now guaranteed to go at least five games, with the fifth coming on Tuesday in Brooklyn. The next task, though, is looking to make sure the Celtics do not tie the series up on Sunday.

The Nets have plenty to improve on to make sure they keep that control. 

James Harden


The stats: 41 PTS, 11-18 FG, 7-12 3PT, 12-13 FT, 7 REB, 10 AST, 1 STL, 2 TO, 39 MIN

Where would the Nets be without James Harden?

The Nets often go as Harden does. The disconnect on the court was evident as soon as Harden would go to the bench, and his three-ball largely carried the team as there was little outside contribution.

Brooklyn needs to tap into the same chemistry it had when Harden missed extended time in the postseason. We know the supporting unit can step up, it just never found a rhythm on Friday.

Kevin Durant


The stats: 39 PTS, 13-24 FG, 4-9 3PT, 9-12 FT, 9 REB, 1 AST, 4 STL, 1 BLK, 3 TO, 40 MIN

KD was a big reason why the Nets were able to regain the lead again in the third quarter. 

KD was able to get to his spots and do damage against the Celtics and made an impact defensively. He missed a three-pointer in the final minute that could have cut the deficit to three, but he can’t be relied on for everything.

The Nets are better when they spread the love and KD and Harden aren’t relied on to carry the team. KD did his best to keep this one competitive, but improved team defense will go a long way the next time he drops 39.

Kyrie Irving


The stats: 16 PTS, 6-17 FG, 2-6 3PT, 2-2 FT, 6 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 1 TO, 41 MIN

Kyrie did not have the revenge game he intended.

Kyrie made some key buckets down the stretch but could not make up for his slow first half. He attempted just five shots in the first two quarters and looked sluggish but later found a groove.

Kyrie will have more chances to silence the Boston crowd on Sunday when capacity is expected to multiply by three. The boos will keep coming, but he still has big performances in him.