Nets Overcome Slow Start as Big Three Leads Way to Game 1 Win

A-

Final: 05/22/2021

W 104 93

The energy in the Barclays Center was electric Saturday evening when the Nets successfully defended their home court against the Celtics, 104-93.

That energy was slightly diminished when the Celtics jumped out to an early 13-4 lead to quiet the sold-out crowd, which clocked in at 14,391 fans. Jayson Tatum wasted no time getting started as he found and hit shots from every spot on the floor, with a special focus on exploiting Blake Griffin.

The Celtics’ defense also complicated things for the Nets, as Brooklyn’s first three-pointer did not fall until there were two minutes left in the second quarter. A separate worrisome moment of the first half for Brooklyn came when Kevin Durant suffered this ugly-looking fall that he thankfully bounced up from. 

 

Critically, the Nets were able to keep the game close thanks to significant contributions from Bruce Brown and Nicolas Claxton off the bench. Despite shooting just 1-for-13 from beyond the arc in the first half, Brooklyn entered halftime trailing by six, 53-47.

The Nets came out of the break with new signs of life. The defense began to shape up and give Boston tougher looks. Kevin Durant in particular found his rhythm and earned Brooklyn its first lead since the opening minutes of the game.

 

The Celtics did not make things easy with their defense, but the firepower of Brooklyn’s Big Three was too much for them to overcome — even though this was just their ninth game playing together. The first-game jitters were shaken out, the offense calmed down and they ended up pulling away. 

The Nets take the first game of the series to go up 1-0 on the Celtics, despite not playing their best basketball. Next up: Game 2 on Tuesday. 

Kevin Durant

B+

The stats: 32 PTS, 10-25 FG, 1-8 3PT, 11-12 FT, 12 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 4 TO, 39 MIN

Kevin Durant may have started the game slowly, but he had no problems heating up to end it.

 

While he did the majority of the leg work in getting Brooklyn back into the game, it would be hard to say this was a great performance by Durant. His efficiency left quite a bit to be desired, and too often he was careless with the ball and gave the Celtics extra possessions. 

The best is yet to come.

James Harden

A-

The stats: 21 PTS, 5-13 FG, 2-8 3PT, 9-10 FT, 9 REB, 8 AST, 4 STL, 1 BLK, 3 TO, 36 MIN

James Harden is the glue that holds the Nets together.

 

Harden had difficulty locating his shot, but like always, he found other ways to make his presence felt. Once the team started to calm down and cut back on isolations, Harden was able to take the reins. Brooklyn looks its best when Harden is conducting the game like an orchestra.

Kyrie Irving

A

The stats: 29 PTS, 11-20 FG, 2-8 3PT, 5-5 FT, 6 REB, 1 AST, 1 BLK, 2 TO, 37 MIN

Kyrie Irving may be the best shot-maker on this team.

 

The things that this man can do with a basketball should be illegal. Irving had several huge makes on Saturday that shifted the momentum by stalling potential Celtics’ runs. He arguably had the best performance out of the Big Three.

Nicolas Claxton

A-

The stats: 6 PTS, 3-6 FG, 5 REB, 1 AST, 1 BLK, 11 MIN

Nicolas Claxton showed up and provided everything you would expect. Both his individual and team defense were airtight as he rushed around the floor causing problems for the Celtics. He knows where to be to get his easy looks on offense without faltering by trying to do too much.

While they might not be the stars, the output of Brooklyn’s bench will be vital to their success in this postseason.

Blake Griffin

B-

The stats: 1 PT, 0-0 FG, 1-2 FT, 3 REB, 4 AST, 2 STL, 20 MIN

Blake Griffin wasn’t awful, but he was a point of weakness.

The Celtics’ entire offensive game plan in the first half revolved around exploiting Griffin defensively. The Nets began to fight their way back once Griffin went to the bench in favor of Claxton and Jeff Green. This may be an adjustment we see more of as the first round continues. 

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