Here are five takeaways from Brooklyn’s victory on Tuesday.
1. Solder Big 3
In Game 1, the Brooklyn Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving took eight points each. In Game 2, they took 12 hits in total each. The balance that these guys show, the feeling of playing in harmony, is amazing when you consider that they only made eight games in total during the regular season.
On Tuesday, Durant led the way with 26 points, while Harden finished with 20 and Irving 15. They shot a collective of 20 for 36 from the field, including 7 of 13 from beyond the arc and 14 from 14. from the free throw line. Because the stars play such an efficient and balanced attack, the Nets were able to get everyone involved in Game 2 with 31 assists. When you have that kind of individual score and rack up over 30 more assists, you’re really on to something.
2. 3-point disparity
After shooting just 8 for 34 (23 percent) from a 3-point distance as a team in Game 1, the Nets went 17-for-38 (44 percent) from downtown in Game 2 . 15 of the arc, flipping the script on Game 1, when the Celtics were over-9 deep. The Nets have game advantages all over the field. The Celtics simply can’t survive if they don’t catch up with the pitch from the 3-point line, let alone if they decidedly lose this battle.
Durant, Harden and Irving – after shooting a 5-on-24-to-3 collective in Game 1 – combined for a more judicious 7-on-11 depth on Tuesday. Harden was selective with his steps back, while all three stars were looking for Joe Harris, who finished 7 for 10 deep for a career-high 25 points.
3. Joe Harris is a ridiculous luxury
In the first seven minutes on Tuesday, Harris was 4-for-4 over the arc for 16 points. He finished the first half 5-for-7 deep for 22 points in 15 minutes. He was a plus-29 for the game.
Harris would be a fantastic shooter and player on any team, but with all the attention Durant, Harden and Irving command, he’s on the verge of unfairness on the Nets. No shooter who’s hit 47.5% of his 3s in the regular season (like Harris has on more than six attempts per game) should get the number of open looks Harris gets, but what other choice does Boston make, or any other defense for that matter, have?
Harris has found his appearance in different ways. In transition:
Off beautiful ball swings:
Out of the dribble:
Trying to keep up with Brooklyn stars is bad enough. If somehow you’re lucky and they hit a cold streak, like they did in Game 1, you’ve got Harris, one of the best shooters in the world, who stands there raining at 3 points. Good luck.
4. Another 20 point deficit for Boston
The Celtics are 20 or more points behind on 13 regular season occasions. They have lost 12 of those games. In Game 2, Boston hit their first 20-point deficit with just over 10 minutes left in the second quarter (46-26) and trailed by no less than 33 points in the third quarter.
It’s pretty straightforward: The Celtics aren’t good enough to go down big against Brooklyn and expect to come back into the game, especially with the way the Nets are suddenly playing on the defensive end.
5. Jayson Tatum’s health in question
Tatum left Game 2 after being punched in the eye in the third quarter. He tried to come back but, as Brad Stevens detailed after the game, he was having a hard time adjusting to the light in the arena. Stevens said Tatum’s eye looked “pretty red, pretty swollen” but did not say whether Tatum, who also suffers from a groin injury, will be able to play in Game 3.
Obviously, the Celtics need Tatum to do more than just play; they need him to play like a superstar if they are to have any chance of returning to this series. Tatum finished Game 2 with nine points on 3 of 12 shots. Suffice it to say, it won’t be enough.
Tatum is a brilliant individual player, but in the beginning the Celtics, as they often do, fell into the trap of isolating themselves too much. At one point, they only had one pass for nine turnovers. With virtually no ball movement, this allowed the Nets to focus on Tatum, charging multiple defenders into his space and vision as nearly every shot became contested.