If the Nets’ Game 1 victory over the Celtics on Saturday was all about the domination of superstars Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden, then their 130-108 bashing of the Celtics in Game 2 Tuesday night at Barclays Center proved they have more than a just a Big 3.
Joe Harris, who won his second NBA three-point percentage title in three seasons with a 47.5% this season exploded for 16 first-quarter points and hit six of eight three-pointers in the first half, which was a franchise playoff record for any half. That ignited a blowout victory in which the Nets’ lead reached 33 points in the third quarter.
"What a nice luxury to have," Nets coach Steve Nash said of Harris. "He’s banging three-balls like that and gets us off to a good start and gets the crowd into the game. He was phenomenal tonight and definitely gives you a lift and gives your team some relief and energy when the ball goes in the hoop."
Durant ultimately led the Nets with 26 points on 8-for-12 shooting, while Harris totaled 25 on 9-for-14 shooting including 7 of 10 from three-point range. Harden added 20 points and seven assists, Irving scored 15 and dished six assists, and Blake Griffin had 11 points. The Nets shot 52.3% from the field (46-88) and hit 17-of-38 three-pointers (44.7%).
Marcus Smart topped the Celtics with 19 points, Kemba Walker had 17, Evan Fournier totaled 16, and Tristan Thompson had 15 points and 11 rebounds. All-Star Jayson Tatum played just 21 minutes before suffering a facial injury and was held to nine points on 3-for-12 shooting.
In Game 1, the Nets’ Big 3 accounted for 82 of 104 points and 58 of 84 shots while the role players scored a mere 22 points on 26 shots. Following the morning shootaround on Tuesday, Harris faulted the role players for creeping in and bringing extra defenders with them. That allowed the Celtics to force the Nets’ stars into more of an isolation game rather than keeping the ball moving to involve everyone. That was a focus before Game 2.
"In Game 1, we weren’t ourselves offensively," Harris said. "I think it was just getting settled in, kind of trying to find our way, there was a lot of excitement getting back with the fans in the building. But tonight, it was a lot of stuff that we worked on in practice in terms of spacing, getting to our spots and trying to make the extra pass, too."
Harris hit four three-pointers and totaled 14 points in an 18-1 first-quarter run that shot the Nets out to a 29-13 lead. All the Nets, including the Big 3, were looking to get him the ball. "That’s a shooter’s dream right there, especially with this group," Harris said. "Obviously, you’re trying to make it as good of an offensive possession as you can, but those guys were looking for me early on after I got the first couple to go."
Starting late in the opening period, the Nets forced the Celtics to turn the ball over on seven of 10 possessions that began a 20-6 Nets run that included 10 points from Harden to build a 58-32 lead. The Nets settled for a 71-47 halftime margin that was one-point short of their biggest lead in playoff history and they were two points short of the most points they ever have scored in one half in franchise history.
In the third quarter, Durant scored 14 points, and the Nets pushed their lead as high as 33. With 8:48 left in the quarter, Tatum took a blow to the face and headed to the locker room. Celtics coach said Tatum returned to the arena but found the bright lights hurt his eye that got scratched and could not continue.
Harris hit just one three-pointer after halftime, but the game was long out of reach. He said playing with the Nets’ Big 3 made his big night possible.
Asked if he’s surprised to find himself so wide-open so many times, Harris said, "Tonight, the ball was being sprayed around and it was really just finding me early on. I don’t take it as a sign of disrespect or anything like that. I think it’s just sort of that this is the reality is that we have three of the best offensive players that ever played."