The Nets’ 141-126 Game 4 victory over the Celtics Sunday night in Boston included a combined 104 points from the Big 3 of Kevin Durant (42), Kyrie Irving (39) and James Harden (23) along with an impossibly good shooting line of 57.8% from the field, 59.3% from three-point range and 96.7% from the foul line.
It all added up to an off-the-charts offensive rating of 143.9 not to mention a 3-1 first-round lead with a chance to close it out in Game 5 Tuesday night at Barclays Center.
But when asked to account for such a great turnaround from the Nets’ Game 3 loss, Harden said the most satisfying aspect was the Nets’ defense. "Offensively, that should be the last thing we’re worried about because we have so many weapons," Harden said. "Defensively, we have to be engaged, locked in possession by possession. Tonight was a lot better.
"Offensively, we’re wrecking when we come down, the ball moves and we play with pace. Defensively, our effort and our rebounding were great, too. Ky did an unbelievable job with 11 rebounds. That’s elite. That’s winning basketball."
Harden himself was brilliant at both ends, contributing a game-high 18 assists on offense and a game-high eight deflections on defense along with three blocked shots, two steals, two recovered loose balls and holding the opposing players he guarded to 2-for-12 shooting. He and starter Joe Harris were on the floor with backup guards Landry Shamet and Tyler Johnson and small-ball center Bruce Brown when the Nets took control with an 18-6 run for a nine-point lead before Irving and Durant returned in the second quarter.
"We were locked in on the defensive side of the ball the whole game, which kept us in the game on the offensive end," Durant said. "We didn’t force anything, and James was incredible controlling the ball, Kyrie scored efficiently, I got some efficient shots. We just played a nice, efficient game."