NEW YORK (AP) — Jayson Tatum scored 39 points, Jaylen Brown had 23 and the Boston Celtics took a 3-0 lead over the Brooklyn Nets with a 109-103 victory Saturday night.
Again making things difficult on Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving with their suffocating defense, the Celtics put themselves in position to sweep their way into the second round with a victory Monday night in Brooklyn.
A loud “Let’s Go Celtics! Let’s Go Celtics!” chant broke out in the final minutes from the many fans in green who had seats in Barclays Center.
There wasn’t much for the home fans to cheer about as the Nets face a team that just won’t let them get anything going.
Durant took only 11 shots, finishing with 16 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Irving was 6 for 17 and also had 16 points for the Nets, who have to decide if they will give Ben Simmons his debut Monday in an elimination game.
Boston led most of the way before the Nets cut it to three with just over a minute remaining in the third quarter. But Marcus Smart scored on a follow shot, made a jumper in transition before Brown got a steal and dunk to make it 81-72 going to the fourth.
Brown kept the Nets at bay from there, repeatedly finding a 1-on-1 matchup and driving to the basket. He set up Tatum for a 3-pointer in the corner after the Nets had gotten back within four, then made a jumper before Tatum converted a three-point play that made it 96-84 with 6:25 to play.
The Celtics got center Robert Williams back after missing nearly a month with torn cartilage in his left knee, making their defense even stronger.
Bruce Brown was the Nets player who could really solve it, scoring a career playoff-high 26 points.
Durant was only 13 for 41 (31.7%) in the two games in Boston with 12 turnovers, and the Nets’ only real hope was if he could regain his form back home.
He made a 3-ponter on his first shot attempt after going 0 for 10 in the second half in Game 2, but he could never consistently find room to shoot while committing five more turnovers.
The Celtics limited Durant to just two shots and led 30-25 after one quarter, then got seven straight points by reserve guard Payton Pritchard to open the second and push the lead to 37-25. Boston was still ahead by eight with under 1 1/2 minutes left in the half, but the Nets scored seven straight and it was 53-50 at the break.
Celtics: Smart scored 14 points. … Williams had two points and two rebounds in 16 minutes off the bench in his first game since March 27 after missing final seven games of the regular season.
Nets: Patty Mills was honored before the start for being voted the winner of the NBA’s Sportsmanship Award on Friday. … Blake Griffin played for the first time in the series, scoring eight points. … Director Spike Lee, a longtime Knicks fan, was at the game wearing a Brooklyn Dodgers jersey and hat.
Coach Steve Nash said Simmons scrimmaged 3-on-3 Saturday morning and had no setbacks. He said it’s possible Simmons plays in Game 4 but cautioned that given his long layoff, with his herniated disk at the end of it, that there was more to consider than if Simmons felt good after his workouts.
“There’s a lot of bigger picture, bigger context to how he’s feeling, how able he would be to adapt to the environment,” Nash said. “It’s a little different than playing a game that’s stashed away in the middle of the regular season, so I think that there’s a few factors at play here to evaluate when he’s ready to play.”