EASTER EPIC! Nets fall in Game 1 thriller to Celtics

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) reacts after making the game winning basket against the Brooklyn Nets in the second half during game one of the first round for the 2022 NBA playoffs at TD Garden.
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Jayson Tatum was the Nets boogyman in their last trip to TD Garden and in Game 1 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs, he played that role again. The Celtics’ rising star helped Boston fire the opening salvo by hitting the winning basket at the buzzer to hand Brooklyn a 115-114 loss.

The Nets now trail the best-of-seven series 1-0 with Game 2 set to take place in Boston on Wednesday.

[READ: 3 keys to Nets first-round matchup with Boston Celtics]

Tatum, who finished the night shooting 9-of-18 from the floor and putting up 31 on Sunday, made the winning basket right under the hoop after Marcus Smart saw Tatum cutting to the rim. The play originated as Jaylen Brown dribbled towards the middle and passed the ball to Smart, who found Tatum for the spinning layup that sent TD Garden into a frenzy.

The sequence fittingly began after Kevin Durant, who put up 24 points but struggled from the field all afternoon, missed a shot that would have given the Nets some more wiggle room in the closing minute. Tatum’s basket was the first playoff buzzer-beater by a Celtic since 2010.

“They pushed it and instead of calling a timeout,” Nets head coach Steve Nash said. “I thought we took away the first action with Brown. Went to Smart, I thought we were intelligent on that side of the action, but he got in the crack and somehow found Tatum who made an intelligent cut.”

The loss was a disappointing end to another outstanding playoff performance from one of the biggest villains in Boston sports at the moment, Kyrie Irving. The Nets superstar finished the game with 39 points and shot 12-of-20 from the field and 6-of-10 from beyond the arc.

Irving was treated to a particularly hostile reception from the Boston faithful on Sunday, which helped fuel his performance but may also cost him some money from the league. Irving got into several exchanges with fans during Game 1, including when he appeared to give some fans the middle finger after he hit a shot during the game.

There was also another exchange in the tunnel with a fan that also appeared on social media.

“It’s the same energy, and I’m gonna have the same energy for them,” Irving said. “If somebody’s gonna call me out on my name, I’m gonna look at them straight in the eye and see if they’re really about it. Most of the time, they’re not.”

It was also a big game for Brooklyn’s role players, with Nic Claxton 13 points off the bench and Goran Dragic scoring 14 in 26 minutes on the floor.

Irving’s biggest contributions came in the second half as he helped lead the Nets back from a 15-point hole in the third quarter and eventually lifted them to a 107-102 lead with five and a half minutes to play in the fourth. The Celtics managed to tie the game back up with 59 seconds left after Al Horford was able to put back a shot, but Irving knocked down a three just seconds later to give the Nets a 114-111 lead.

Brown made a driving layup to pull the Celtics within one with 38.9 left on the clock.

Sunday’s opening game certainly lived up to the billing that many anticipated from the two sides. Durant and Irving struggled out of the gate in the first — shooting a combined 1-for-8 through the first 12 minutes — and both teams played a somewhat sloppy opening quarter before settling in a bit more in the second.

The Nets turned the ball over seven times in the first, with Durant accounting for three and Irving made had two. The Nets as a team finished with 16 turnovers.