1. It looked like Brooklyn was well on their way to a sweep after Joe Harris hit a three-pointer to put the Nets up 19-4 only 3:26 into the game. But a funny thing happened on the way to that 3-0 series lead.
The Celtics fought back.
Boy did they ever fight back. They scored. They defended. They grabbed rebounds. They slammed home offensive rebounds. And they had some fun doing it. And a crowd of only 5,000 sounded like it was a full TD Garden.
Even if things don’t go Boston’s way the rest of the series, this undermanned bunch found their edge and scrapped to a win. Just the way Celtics fans like it.
2. There aren’t a lot of superlatives left to describe Jayson Tatum. He’s an incredible talent, who is still learning and figuring things out. That’s what makes what he’s doing so special. Tatum is still growing into the play he’s eventually going to be.
50 points in a playoff game is legendary stuff. Here’s some of how he got there.
This crossover into his step-back over Kevin Durant was a sign of things to come:
This corner three over the bigger Nicolas Claxton is just filthy:
Kyrie Irving got caught with his hand in the cookie jar and Tatum made him pay:
Tatum draws Claxton again and the Nets young big man has no chance:
Late in the game, the Nets weren’t going away. So, Tatum put them away. This should have been an and-1:
If you’re going to score 50, why not get it in style and clinch the game?
3. Beyond his 50 points, Jayson Tatum grabbed six rebounds, two steals and had a block. He also only turned it over once, while dishing out seven assists. That’s one hell of a night.
Tatum did a nice job on the drive-and-kick game. Here’s a nice play to find Romeo Langford for the open triple:
Everything was running through Tatum in the fourth quarter. And he kept making the right play. He’s got the attention of three Nets here as he drives, so he hits Evan Fournier with the perfect pass for the three-pointer:
4. Tatum was “special” as Brad Stevens said. But Stevens also noted that Boston had a lot of guys step up around Tatum being special. One of them was Romeo Langford. His defense helped changed the game early on. He was active, quick and bouncy. You saw him hit a three on one of the clips above. He also hit his first shot with no hesitation:
5. Langford was joined in good minutes by fellow 2019 first-rounder Grant Williams. Williams had to play extended minutes due to Robert Williams leaving the game with a sprained left ankle. Grant delivered.
Williams found some offense in last year’s playoffs by playing out of the post. He does a nice job of that here against the smaller defender to get the quick hook:
Robert Williams has been a terror with blocked shots in this series. Without him, Grant Williams stepped up for a highlight block of his own:
6. Tristan Thompson also stepped way up with Robert Williams out. Thompson played what was probably his best game as a Celtics, as he rag-dolled the Nets all over the paint. Thompson finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds, with nine of his boards coming on the offensive end.
Thompson had a pair of huge follow dunks. This one came to help give Boston a little breathing room at the half:
There are two things to note on this play. First, look how Thompson is setting the screen. Brad Stevens had his big screen for ballhandlers at the top of the key by turning their back to the play. That didn’t allow the Nets to cheat the screen and jump the ballhandler.
The second thing to notice is Thompson soar above several Brooklyn players for the tip-dunk:
7. It’s going to get lost a little bit in Tatum’s monster night, Thompson’s big effort, kids stepping up off the bench and Marcus Smart playing well, but Evan Fournier quietly had 17 big points for the Celtics.
In Game 2, Fournier showed his fight by getting in Kevin Durant’s face. If you’re going to do that, you have to back it up. Fournier backed it up here:
8. Marcus Smart played one of his better games of the season. He was all over the place defensively, as per usual. And he made a bunch of plays as a scorer and playmaker. This play shows off all of that. Smart gets the steal and then delivers the pretty behind-the-back pass to Tristan Thompson for the dunk:
You know Smart loved this one. The fans certainly did, considering whose expense it came at:
And we’re not dropping the clip, but Kevin Durant absolutely ran Marcus Smart over late in the game. But at least we got this meme for all-time:
9. It wasn’t a good game for Kemba Walker. He shot just 3-of-14 and missed all seven of this three-point attempts. But he was very active on defense and he grabbed eight rebounds. And when Boston really needed one, he came through. Coffee is for closers. Kemba gets coffee:
10. The Celtics found their fight, their edge and their groove in Game 3. They battled back and then got physical and did their thing. As we said above, even if the Nets superior talent wins out, at least Boston found themselves.
Sunday is going to be an all-time atmosphere in TD Garden. Late Sunday night tip, no work on Monday due to the holiday and an opponent they love to hate? 17,000 Celtics fans are going to be loud and proud for Game 4.
The Celtics will look to even the series in Boston on Sunday night at 7:00 PM ET on TNT.