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Nets’ big three combine for 104 points, dominate shorthanded Celtics

This is the Brooklyn offense every opponent feared.

Kevin Durant scored 42 points on 14-of-20 shooting, Kyrie Irving added 39 points, and James Harden pitched in 23 points and 18 assists. That’s 104 points for the big three alone. On top of that, Brooklyn shot 57.8% overall and 59.3% from 3, hit 29-of-30 free throws, and had an offensive rating of 145.8 (via Cleaning the Glass).

Boston — shorthanded without Kemba Walker and Robert Williams III for this game, making it three starters out when Jaylen Brown is included — had a good offensive game itself, putting up 126 points, behind 40 from Jayson Tatum.

It just wasn’t near enough.

The Nets overwhelmed the Celtics in the second half and went on to win 141-126, taking a commanding 3-1 series lead. Game 5 is back in Brooklyn on Tuesday night.

As the Nets were leaving the court in Boston, a fan threw a water bottle at Kyrie Irving (he missed). That fan was taken into custody and detained, according to reports.

It was a vocal Boston crowd that had jeered Durant all night but saved most of their venom for Irving, who had professed his love for the Celtics before bolting for the Nets in 2019. There was a lot of pent-up emotion in that crowd — but throwing a water bottle at a player goes way over the line and deserves punishment.

Brooklyn felt it had come out flat in Game 3 — Boston’s lone win in the series — and offensively came out with more fire. That didn’t help much in the first quarter when the Nets couldn’t get stops and the Celtics picked up where they left off in Game 3; it was 34-33 Boston after one.

The Nets won the second quarter 40-26 — behind Harden, who had 15 in the quarter — and dominated the rest of the meaningful parts of the game. This was the Brooklyn team that everyone around the league fears — they didn’t play great defense but it didn’t matter because the offense was so overwhelming.

With the status of Walker up in the air for Game 5 — and even if he is playing — it’s hard to see how the Celtics find a way to slow the Nets offense enough to come back in this series. Marcus Smart and Tatum will defend well, the Celtics will show some grit, but the talent balance leans heavily to the Nets and it’s hard to overcome that three times in four games.