The Brooklyn Nets had all week to work on their game.
Then they came out and looked like they’ve barely played together all season, at least on the offensive end. Which, of course, is the case.
Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden played in just eight games together during the regular season due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, injuries and personal reasons.
They looked shaky in the first half of their first playoff game together. Through two quarters, they shot a combined 10-for-32, including 0-for-11 on 3-pointers in Game 1 of their first-round series against the Boston Celtics on Saturday.
"Some of it was shot-making, some of it was cohesion, some of it was just first time out in the playoffs with fans," Nets coach Steve Nash said. "There was a little bit of newness in many ways."
Game 2 – Tue, 7:30pm/et, TNT pic.twitter.com/pwpH4WXIMN
The Nets’ offense — the best in the NBA during the regular season — was stagnant, marred by lack of ball movement, reliance on one-on-one isolation basketball and missed shots.
But it’s still Irving, Durant and Harden, three of the best scorers and playmakers in the NBA. At least one, maybe two and possibly all three will find offense at some point.
That’s exactly what happened.
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The Nets overcame a 12-point deficit in the second quarter with stellar offense in the third quarter and final 6:38 of the fourth quarter, defeating the Celtics 104-93 for a 1-0 series lead.
Game 2 is Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET, TNT).
Durant, playing in his first playoff game since rupturing his Achilles in the 2019 NBA Finals against Toronto, scored a game-high 32 points, Irving had 29 points and Harden had 21 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
Kevin Durant: “I’m glad we got the first one, but we gotta get ready for Game 2.”#NETSonYESpic.twitter.com/EXKfXbu6hC
They accounted for 82 of Brooklyn’s 104 points, including 49 of 57 in the second half. By no means was it a great overall offensive performance, but with such limited time during the regular season, these minutes are essential.
"The first half was so uncharacteristic from a shot-making standpoint for us," Nash said. "That put us in a bit of hole, but we all had confidence that it would be hard to shoot that poorly in the second half."
The Celtics provide a solid matchup for the Nets, who don’t have a lot of time to find playoff mode with a potential second-round matchup against Milwaukee looming.
During an 18-4 run to start the third quarter, Irving, Durant and Harden scored all 18 points to give Brooklyn a 65-57 lead. Then in the fourth quarter, when Boston trailed 82-79 with seven minutes remaining, Irving scored 11 points in a 17-3 run to create the separation needed for the victory.
"We knew that our offense would start to come around," Durant said.
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