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Nets 130, Celtics 108: Brooklyn Blitzes Boston for 2-0 Series Lead

The full pressure of Brooklyn’s wealth of offensive options has carried the Nets to consecutive wins in the first two games of their first-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics at Barclays Center.

After Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden carried the bulk of the scoring in Game 1, Joe Harris buried the Celtics in a storm of early 3-pointers in Tuesday night’s Game 2, spurring the Nets on to a 130-108 win.

As a group, the Nets made 11 of their first 14 shots – five of their first six 3-pointers — in jumping out to a 29-13 lead seven minutes into the game, going on to lead by as many as 26 points in the first half and by 24 at halftime.

Harris had 16 of those first 29 points, hitting all four of his 3-point attempts in the first seven minutes and shooting 6-of-7 overall to that point.

“Early in the game, you could see that us driving the basketball, collapsing the defense was gonna get guys open shots and Joe happened to be the recipient of a few of those early in the game and created separation and we were able to pace on both ends of the floor after we got it going offensively, so it was good,” said Irving. “Good night for Joe, good night for all of us to just play off one another and just make easy reads.”

The Brooklyn lead rose as high as 33 points in the second half as the Nets went on to shoot 52.3 percent overall and 44.7 percent from 3-point range — plus 95.5 percent from the free throw line for good measure. They hit the 100-point mark with 3:30 to go in the third quarter.

Harris set a playoff career high with 25 points on 9-of-14 shooting, hitting 7-of-10 3-pointers to match a franchise playoff record for 3-pointers made. He had 22 points in the first half alone, hitting 6-of-8 3-pointers to set a franchise playoff record for 3-pointers made in a half and shooting 8-of-11 overall.

“Joe had it going tonight,” said Harden. “We all knew that. Me, KD and Ky just chipped in where we needed to. But it’s all a team effort. Different games are going to be different guys. Tonight it was Joe. Next game, game three, it could be someone else. We’re just all locked in and on the same page. Whatever it takes to win.”

All five Nets starters scored in double figures, led by Durant with 26 points on 8-of-12 shooting — including 2-of-2 on 3-pointers — and a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line, plus eight rebounds and five assists.

Harden had 20 points, seven assists, and five rebounds, making 4-of-8 3-pointers. Irving scored 15 points with six assists and six rebounds. Blake Griffin had 11 points and Landry Shamet scored 10.

Ball movement was on display early — the Nets had assists on nine of their first 11 field goals — and Brooklyn finished with 31 assists after a regular season in which the Nets set franchise records for assists per game and most games with at least 30 assists.

"Whenever the ball moves we're very difficult to defend,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash. “We can score in isolation, but the more the ball moves, we knock the first domino down and then the teams chase and we're excellent in those situations. We want to try to make that more of a habit for us and that takes some time but I think that tonight was a good indicator of where we can go with that and we should build on that and make sure that we try to really play together, play off one another, make sure everyone's a threat on as many possessions as possible."

Meanwhile, the shutdown defense that closed out Brooklyn’s Game 1 win carried over, with the Nets limiting the Celtics to 42.4 percent shooting. Through two games, Brooklyn has held the Celtics to 39.7 percent shooting overall and 35.9 percent from 3-point range.

“We have a full complement of players now,” said Nash. “They understand what we're trying to do, and when you get in the playoffs, both teams are gameplanning for one another. There's a little bit more of what you're trying to take away, and then the intensity. Our guys are playing really intense, physical basketball. So our defense has gone up a level here. But that's always got to be something we fight and claw like an underdog if we want to perform on that end of the floor.”

In building a 71-47 halftime lead, the Nets shot 52.0 percent overall and 52.4 percent from 3-point range — 11-for-21 — over the first 24 minutes, with 19 assists on 26 field goals. It was the second-highest scoring half in Nets playoff history, going all the way back to a 73-point first half against Milwaukee back in 1986. It was also the second-largest playoff halftime lead in franchise history to a 25-point lead on Chicago in 2013.

It was 14-13 four minutes into the first quarter when the Nets turned a sharp-shooting start up a level. After Irving scooped in a layup off a drive, Harris rained down three consecutive threes then came up with a steal and a breakaway layup for a 27-13 lead. Jeff Green followed with a baseline jumper to make it a 15-0 Brooklyn run, at which point the Nets were 11-of-14 overall and 5-of-6 from 3-point range with nine assists. Boston got back within 31-24 before Durant and Green combined for a 9-2 run to close the quarter and send the Nets into the second quarter leading 40-26.

“I thought that for sure our spacing was definitely better today,” said Harris. “I thought that we did a better job getting out in transition, too. A lot of the looks that we got early on were because we got stops and we were able to push. Now Game 1, it seemed a lot of the offensive possessions were a little bit slower, where even if we got a stop, we weren't necessarily getting out putting pressure on them. And today, it was definitely a lot of we were just the aggressors early on, and we put a lot of pressure on them. But a lot of it started with the defense; and then again, like I mentioned this morning, we know just from Game 1 how hard they were collapsing on everybody when they got into the paint. And so just being basically a willing passer and there's a lot of extra pass situations where guys got open looks.”

Harden scored the first seven points of the second quarter on a pair of 3-pointers, drawing a foul and converting a four-point play on the second to boost the lead to 21 points. A Harris 3-pointer and Shamet’s reverse layup made it 58-32, and Brooklyn stretched the lead to 26 points on two occasions in the final minutes of the first half before taking a 24-point lead into the break.

With a 76-55 lead in the third quarter, the Nets ran off 11 straight points with six straight from Durant followed by another Harris 3-pointer for an 87-55 lead. They extended that into an 18-5 run and a 94-61 lead, their largest of the game, with 5:51 to go in the third quarter. Brooklyn took a 109-82 lead into the fourth quarter, a franchise playoff record for most points scored through three quarters.

“I thought defensively we played hard,” said Nash. “Our intensity was there. We fought and scrapped. Had a good first half defensively and obviously compared to the first game we made shots, were hot to start the game. We played pretty well at both ends of the floor but most importantly our guys they came out with the right spirit."