It is now a chain. Or at least he has one feeling.
After the Brooklyn Nets dominated the first two games and appeared on their way to another easy win early in Match 3, the Boston Celtics showed some flexibility to earn a decisive 125-119 win Friday night at TD Garden to return to the series, 2–1.
Here are five tips from the Celtics fighting against the Nets to at least make things interesting:
Here he goes again
With a talent gap as large as between the Celtics and Nets, Boston needed a hard effort from Jason Tatum to take a match in the series and deliver it.
Tatum was exciting, scoring 50 playoff points in a record 16 of 30 to line up with seven assists and six rebounds. It was the fourth time this season that Tatum had scored at least 50 points, and he became the sixth player in the history of the Boston franchise to score 50 in the playoff. It was a much-needed show from Tatum as well, as Brooklyn packed the Celtics star during the first two games of the series with Tatum combined 9 from 32 from the floor entering Game 3.
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Tatum assured himself from the start, overtaking his Game 2 score of nine in the first quarter alone. But Tatum went to another level in the third quarter, and Nets had no answer for that.
Tatum scored 19 points per frame and had a few impressive possessions when he sank a wing jump while Keri Irving missed him, unleashing a sinister step back before drilling a triple pointer over Nicholas Claxton and hit the jump over James. Hardening.
Tatum’s aggressiveness paid off with his 15 free throw.
Irving’s night began with a chorus of booing as he took the floor to do the pre-match warm-ups, and he could hear them every time he touched the ball once the match started.
Irving wasn’t a factor in his first Boston match with fans in the stands since signing the Nets two seasons ago. Irving was never successful in 41 minutes, scoring 16 points in a passive 6 of 17 shot.
Irving didn’t seem to have a problem with constantly crowding on him after he said he hoped there wasn’t “hidden racism” from the Boston crowd.
“It’s basketball,” Irving said. “I’ve been in a few settings in my life … if nothing extra, I’m grateful nonetheless.”
Tatum did not have his usual running mate for Jailyn Brown, who was out of action for the rest of the season after undergoing surgery for his torn wrist ligaments, but Marcus Smart filled the role impressively.
Smart contributed 23 points on 8 of 11, including 5 of 8 on 3 throws to act as a vital spark. Smart flared up alongside Tatum in the third quarter as the duo came together to score 29 of Boston’s 35 points in the frame.
Smart drained all of his three-point attempts in the quarter, including a four-point play. Smart also performed his model plays, including a sketches on Irving in the fourth quarter. Smart was a major early on, too, helping the Celtics break out of a 19-4 hiatus to start the competition.
While Tatum carried the attacking load, Tristan Thompson set the tone with his play low. The veteran would not allow the Celtics to push and control panels, as nine of his 13 recoil came on the attacking glass. He also scored 19 points.
When Thompson won the inner battle, he also showed off some jumps he rarely used in the regular season when he threw a drench away from Kimba Walker early in the fourth quarter. Thompson lives up to a solid clincher in this game.
The woes of Kimba
Walker was not 100% as he suffered a bone bruise to his left knee in Game 2, had difficulty getting the ball into the basket on the parquet floor, and scored only six points on a 3 of 14. shot. Walker also did not hit any of the seven three-pointers he attempted.
Walker managed to grab eight rebounds, but the Celtics star missed several easy passes that could have helped create more secession against the Nets, who did not leave easily.
Follow Greg Duddick on Twitter @ gdudek10.