Nets rout Celtics to take stranglehold on series

The Nets moved within one game of the NBA semifinals after steamrolling the Celtics on Sunday.

BOSTON — The Celtics fans gave Kyrie Irving hate.

He gave them a show.

And by the time Irving and the rest of Brooklyn’s Big 3 were done, they had cruised to a huge 141-126 Game 4 rout to stun a sellout crowd of 17,226 at TD Garden.

With 104 points from Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden, it was the highest-scoring playoff output in Nets history, and gave them a commanding 3-1 first-round series lead with a chance to close the Celtics out in Game 5 Tuesday at Barclays Center. It’s hard to think they won’t do exactly that if they play anywhere near this well again.

This crowd — which for two years had been Irving’s crowd — showered him with profanities and invectives in Friday’s Game 3, and he’d had a fairly quiet performance in a Nets loss. But there was nothing quiet about his bounce-back performance two days later, coming out of the gates attacking and never letting up.

“I think it’s just fundamentals,” Steve Nash had said before the game. “Discipline and details. Just making sure that we double down in those areas before we even get to do what we’re trying to do schematically at both ends of the floor.

“They were a little too comfortable last game. We had a good start and maybe took our foot off the gas just a little bit, and the series kind of swung in their favor. [This] will be a great test for us and it’s great for us and it’s great for us to face some adversity and under duress double down on our fundamentals and details.”

Irving had 39 points, while Kevin Durant scored 42 and James Harden was in complete command with 23 points and 18 assists.

Kevin Durant (l) and Kyrie Irving celebrate Sunday’s win.
NBAE via Getty Images

Despite Durant and Harden combining for 80 points on Friday, Irving had just 16 — and only two at halftime, with the Nets digging themselves into a hole. But Irving showed more aggression in the first quarter on Sunday than he had throughout that entire loss, attacking the defense and getting rewarded for his initiative.

Irving was in full Uncle Drew mode, with an array of crossovers, side-steps and even dunks. What was more impressive than his glitz was his grit, the attacking play that earned him a playoff career-high 11-for-11 from the free-throw line, and the physical play that saw the smallest Net fight for 11 rebounds.

Irving’s toughness — and the energy of Nic Claxton, who had a career-high four blocks in just a five-minute cameo during a pivotal 23-10 run — set the tone.

“I think that’s true of every team in basketball. When you have that — you’re able to match or outproduce that physicality — you’re going to give yourself an advantage in some way,” Nash said. “So, that’s really important.

“You could probably name five or six little mini-battles within a game that allows one team to take the upper hand. That’s certainly one of them. We’re definitely a much better team when we’re aggressive and physical, so I think it is important for us to do that.”

After the Nets fell behind 24-15 on three-point play by Jayson Tatum (40 points), they immediately bore down and turned the game. They went on a 23-10 run that spanned the first and second quarters, taking a 38-34 edge on a Harden step-back 3.

Claxon had four blocks in that span after getting outplayed by Tristan Thompson in Game 3.

“I consider every playoff game a must win-game, just the intensity level you need every game, especially on the road,” Claxton said.

The Nets outscored the Celtics 40-26 in that second quarter to take a 73-60 lead into the locker room.

It was tied for the highest-scoring half of postseason basketball in team history (with a 73-point first half of a first-round Game 3 against the Bucks back in 1986). And it was their biggest halftime edge in a road playoff game since posting a 64-46 cushion over the Heat in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semis on May 8, 2006.

But this time, the Nets never took their foot off the gas.

By the time Harden found Landry Shamet for a 3-pointer with 1:20 left in the third, they had padded their cushion to 110-83.

This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Brian Lewis

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