Kevin Durant scored 32 points and 12 boards to help the Nets slipped pass the Boston Celtics 104-93 victory in the opening game of the Eastern Conference first-round playoff series in front of 14,391 fans at the Barclays Center.
Williams battled through a turf toe injury and played lights out for Boston on the night. He blocked nine Nets shots to set a Celtics’s playoff record for blocks in 23 minutes on the floor.
“Our defense was better than our offense tonight,” Nets coach Steve Nash said after winning his first career postseason victory at the helm.
Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving were a combined 5 for 20 in the first quarter and Brooklyn missed all nine 3-point attempts from downtown in the period. The Celtics sprinted out to a 32-20 lead early in the second.
Harris finally hit a long trey with 2:18 left and Boston brought a 53-47 lead into the break.
“I felt like we put on a good show,”Nets Kyrie Irving said. “We’ve just got to do it three more times.”
Things changed quickly after the break. Harden made a trey after four straight points by Durant out of the locker room. After two Boston baskets, it went: Irving 3, Durant 3, Durant jumper, Harden 3. That capped the 18-4 run and made it 65-57.
The second half the Nets just tightened up on the wings and shots started to fall for them. Brooklyn went up 82-79 with 7:27 left before Irving (seven points) and Durant (two) combined on a 9-0 run to give the Nets a nice 12-point lead. Durant (Achilles’ rupture) was playing in his first playoff game in 712 days. KD looked true to form in the second half, playing like a man child.
Compliments are in order for Boston big man Robert Williams III, as “The Timelord” finished with a franchise postseason-record nine blocks. But the Celtics had little else to celebrate about, simply lacking the necessary offensive firepower to keep up with Brooklyn. Boston coach Brad Stevens angered plenty of New England natives before the first-round series when he said “it’s hard to see” the Nets losing. If Saturday night was any indication, he might be right on point.
Irving scored 29 points and Harden chipped in 21 points, nine rebounds, eight assists and four swipes for the second-seeded Nets. The contest was just the ninth in which Durant, Harden, and Irving played together.
Jayson Tatum scored 22 points for seventh-seeded Celtics but he was just 6 of 20 from the field.
Boston were outscored by 21 points in his 27 minutes of action. Overall, the Celtics shot only 36.9 percent for the game.
Marcus Smart scored 17 points and Kemba Walker chipped in 15 for the Celtics. Robert Williams III contributed 11 points, nine rebounds and nine blocked shots, with the rejections falling just one short of the NBA postseason record.
“I think once your energy’s focused on the defensive side of the ball, it will start to turn for you,” Durant said. “So you saw that for us in the second half.”
Irving and Durant combined for the finishing blow in the fourth, a 12-2 run that extended a three-point lead to 94-81 on Irving’s follow shot.
“You can guard these guys really well and you’re still going to have to score,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said.