Here are the takeaways as the Celtics pulled away from the Nets in Game 3 on Saturday and claimed a commanding 3-0 lead in their first-round series with a 109-103 victory.
1. We will get into the myriad things the Celtics did right, and there’s a long list of them. But we should probably start with this quote from Blake Griffin, who played his first minutes in quite some time and showed more fight than most of his teammates.
“I just feel like we didn’t have the right spirit throughout the entire game,” Griffin said afterward.
Saturday was the Nets’ entire season, boiled down to 48 minutes, and they had few answers for a Celtics team determined to make life difficult for Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Bruce Brown was excellent, and Griffin played pretty well (more on that in a minute), but Durant took just 11 shots and scored 16 points, while Irving finished 6-for-17 from the floor.
Irving is obviously an important piece of the Nets’ puzzle, but he’s not Kevin Durant. The theory that the Nets might win this series was based on Durant’s ability to slow Jayson Tatum and beat the Celtics’ vaunted defense. He hasn’t really been able to do either, which is less of an indictment on him and more of a reason to buy in to the Celtics as a contender. They can slow Durant — one of the NBA’s all-time greatest players and scorers — to a crawl, and they seemingly broke the will of two players with championship experience. They faced down the 7-seed nobody else wanted to play, and they are now answering post-game questions about staying focused for a close-out game with a big lead.
What can’t this team do?
2. Early in his career, Jayson Tatum drew a lot of comparisons to Paul George, and that probably undersold his potential. He scored 39 points against the Nets on Saturday, but his defense really stood out – Tatum is doing the inverse of what the Nets need from Durant. On Saturday, once again, he made life difficult for the Nets star while excelling on the other end. Tatum also finished with six steals and six assists – a sparkling stat line even if he didn’t shoot particularly efficiently.
Tatum has been a star for a while, but this might be the first playoff run where we see him transforming into a no-questions-asked superstar.
“The playoffs are a different animal,” Ime Udoka said. “To see this happen in the playoffs is great for us.”
3. Tatum will get a lot of well-deserved credit for Saturday’s win, but Jaylen Brown was excellent in the fourth quarter. Brown finished with 23 points on 9-for-16 shooting, and when Griffin looked like he might give the Celtics some real problems, Brown was the one who attacked him on the other end and kept the Nets at arm’s length. Griffin kept the Nets attached, but he couldn’t help them gain any ground because he could not even come close to covering Jaylen Brown on a switch.
Before the series, most analysts seemed to believe the Celtics had the second-best and fourth-best players. After three games, it looks an awful lot like they have Nos. 1 and 3.
4. Robert Williams returned to the floor for the first time since undergoing surgery for a torn meniscus. In 15 minutes, he scored two points, grabbed two rebounds, and dissuaded the Nets from driving at times with his presence.
Still, the Celtics can be doubly encouraged by his debut. First, according to Ime Udoka, Williams felt fine and looked great. He could have played more, but the team didn’t want to risk anything.
“No pain, no setbacks,” Williams said. “So just thankful for that.”
No risks were necessary, either. Maybe equally encouraging for the Celtics: Williams didn’t really impact the game, and they still claimed a 3-0 series lead. The Celtics need one more win to sweep, they have home-court advantage in the second round, and they haven’t completely tapped their potential in the playoffs.
The Celtics and Nets face off in Game 4 on Monday at 7 p.m.
We will have more takeaways later this evening.
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Source : https://www.boston.com/sports/boston-celtics/2022/04/23/celtics-nets-game-3-takeaways-analysis-highlights/