The Celtics once again received the kind of ground-breaking performance at both ends of the field from their much-needed star players – but didn’t get – from Kevin Durant and Keri Irving.
Jason Tatum scored 39 points, and Jaylene Brown added 23 points The Celtics advanced by one win, sweeping the net with a 109-103 victory Saturday night at the Barclays Center. Tatum’s combined total production exceeded both Durant and Irving, who finished with 16 each.
“I’m not trying to make it an individual thing [with Durant] Tatum said after the match. “As long as we win, that’s all I care about.”
Tatum also defended against Durant in most series, and the top-rated Celtics defense carried the Nets star to 31.7 percent in the first two games of the series in Boston and to only 11 field goal attempts (6-versus 11) in Game 3.
“It’s been all year for us,” Boston coach Im Odoka said of Tatum, who finished the game with six steals. “We’ve talked about our team as a collective unit being the number one defensive team and that takes everyone to be involved in. He doesn’t always get credit for his scoring prowess.”
Asked if he thought the Celtics had confused Durant, Brown said: “I’m not worried about what KDK thinks. I’m worried about what we think. Our job is to make him guess a little bit, make it difficult. But Kevin Durant It’s Kevin Durant. He’s had a tough time and we want to keep him that way. Because we know what he can do.”
The second-seeded Celtics, who will get their first chance to sweep the series on Monday in Game Four, welcomed third-seeded Robert Williams back for the first time since he tore his meniscus on March 27 and underwent surgery three days later.
The Boston megaman scored just two points in 16 minutes off the bench, but those points came in a sure dunk alley with a feed from Tatum in the second quarter.
Ben Simmons targeted Game 4 due to his return from a back injury – and his first appearance with the Nets since he was acquired from the 76ers at James Harden’s blockbuster trade in February. Williams’ return bolstered Boston’s NBA-ranked defense during the regular season.
At 6-foot-9, Williams finished fourth in the NBA with 2.2 blocked shots per game, while averaging nearly double (10.0 points and 9.6 rebounds) in 29.6 minutes per game over 61 appearances. Essential. Soon after entering the game early in the second quarter, Williams also refused to lead Andre Drummond over the edge.
“When you’re out, it pays to not even think about it,” Williams said of his knee. “Coming straight to the playoff, I just got work to do to help my team win.”
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