NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden The regular season had just eight games together, enough to make some wonder how good they really could be.
The five games against Boston offered some answers — and a chance to make up for all of their lost time.
“We don’t want to take this time lightly,” Irving said. “It’s not often in our culture, in our history, where the three best scorers playing a game are on a team.”
Harden had 34 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his first postseason triple-double with Brooklyn, leading trap In Game 5 Tuesday night, Boston advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals with a 123-109 win over the Celtics.
— Brooklyn Nets (@brooklynnets) 2 June 2021
Irving scored 25 points for the Nets and had 24 points with Durant, who will face the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round since 2014. The No. 2-seeded Nets will host Game 1 against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks on Saturday.
“We have our work cut out for us,” Durant said. “I mean, he’s a two-time MVP, Defensive Player of the Year for a reason, so we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Despite their limited time together during the regular season, the Nets’ three Superstars showed just how powerful they could be in this series, especially when they combined with 104 points in Game 4.
“We weren’t worried about the playoff run yet, we were happy on the court together,” Harden said. “So it’s great to get a series out of the way and like I said, we’ll take a break tomorrow and we’ll be ready again and ready for a tough Milwaukee team.”
Nowhere was Brooklyn as powerful as Game 4, when it was up 141 points. But a little explosive vibe here and there was good enough to wrap it up.
The Celtics were trailing by only eight minutes in the final and had less than eight minutes to play. Durant then scored a 3-pointer, Jason Tatum reversed it and Irving nailed another 3 to the break, pushing it to 103-89 with 7:19 to play.
Evan Fournier scored but Harden responded with another 3 and Bruce Brown scored inside, an 11-2 burst in less than 90 seconds that opened it 108-91 through the fourth .
Tatum had 32 points and nine rebounds for the Celtics, who made it to the Eastern Conference finals last year, but were quickly gone by the unavailability of Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker.
“Jason kept on making plays. We didn’t do enough as a team. But he showed a lot of subtlety this year,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens.
Fournier added 18 points and Romeo Langford added 17 points in place of Walker, who missed his second straight game with a knee injury.
“Enough. Enough. Injuries on top of injury. Friends not being able to play together. Too many personal things. This is life, things are more important than basketball, but you have to be professional,” said guard Marcus Smart.
The Nets were eager to avoid returning to Boston after a fan threw a water bottle at Irving after Game 4, but the clincher didn’t come easily.
The Celtics hung on in the game, not allowing the Nets to take a double-digit lead, until it was 66–54 from a 7–0 burst early in the second half. Boston recovered and trailed 86–79 after Tatum made a jumper on the buzzer to finish third.
Celtics: Robert Williams also missed his second straight game due to an ankle injury. … Smart scored 14 points but was 1 for 10 at 3-pointers.
trap: Jason Kidd has the other 10 triple-doubles of the Nets in post-season history. … the Nets are 12-3 against the Celtics in playoff games.
Nets coach Steve Nash said he didn’t talk much to Irving about what his former team’s chance of knocking out the playoffs meant to him. But Nash remembered that he had an added edge when he went to Phoenix and beat Dallas in the 2005 postseason.
“I don’t know if he feels the same way to be honest, but there’s more to it,” Nash said. “For me, I spent six years in Dallas, six very important and influential years, impressive years in my career. So there were a lot of weird, weird feelings in that experience.”
Stevens said Walker’s problem was a bone injury, aside from the soreness that plagued him in the bubble last year, delayed his start this season by nearly a month and contributed to him playing just 43 games.
“I sat down with Kemba in my room for a while today and told her how bad I felt for her and how much we wanted to make her feel better,” Stevens said.
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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