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Nets Notes: Joe Harris Breaks Out, Breaks Open a Nets Rout

Big start leads to playoff career high 25 points and franchise records

The Brooklyn Nets are made to spread defenses to the breaking point, starting “three of the best offensive players that ever played” — Joe Harris’ words — along with the NBA’s best 3-point shooter — that would be Harris himself — and the versatile center Blake Griffin, as likely to drop a 3-pointer as a floor-shaking dunk.

But in an unusually sluggish Game 1 win against the Boston Celtics over the weekend, Harris felt the Nets were crowding each other a little bit. They were “creeping up,” Harris said, dragging defenders with them. Passing lanes disappeared, one-on-one play dominated. The Nets had just 18 assists, matching their lowest total from the 72-game regular season.

They made Game 2 a different story from the start, with all five starters scoring in double-figures and Harris delivering an epic shooting performance, sharing the ball to the tune of 31 assists.

“It’s a pick-your-poison situation with us,” said Harris. “There’s definitely games when teams are closing out to you, but with us, when the ball is moving like tonight and guys are putting pressure on the paint and everybody is still cognizant and worried about those three guys, you’ve just got to find windows. Tonight, the ball was being sprayed around and it was really just finding me early on.”

The ball found Harris. Harris found only the bottom of the net in the opening minutes, and the Nets found themselves blowing the doors off the Celtics and the roof off Barclays Center, breaking out to a 130-108 win in which their 16-point first-quarter lead was just the start.

Harris scored 16 of Brooklyn’s first 29 points, making all four of his 3-point attempts and 6-of-7 shots overall in the game’s first seven minutes. Eleven of those points came in a row, starting with three consecutive 3-pointers, the roar from the crowd ratcheting up with each one.

“That’s a shooter’s dream right there, especially with this group,” said Harris. “Obviously, you’re trying to make it as good of an offensive possession as you can, but those guys were looking for me early on after I got the first couple to go.”

“When Joe gets it going like that, that unlocks our whole team,” said Kevin Durant. “But we know that Joe can run off nine to 12 points at any given moment so we got to continue to look for him.”

Coming off his second 3-point shooting title in three seasons, Harris leads all NBA players in 3-point percentage over the last three seasons combined, and he’s risen to fourth in NBA history in 3-point percentage.

Tuesday night’s performance pushed some other historic markers. In finishing with a playoff career high 25 points, Harris made 7-of-10 3-pointers, matching the franchise record for 3-pointers made in playoff game. His six in the first half alone broke a franchise record for a single half in a playoff game. Ultimately, Harris was one 3-pointer shy of his own career best, having made eight against Washington back in January.

“To be honest, I wasn’t really thinking about it a ton,” said Harris. “I was just caught up in the game, the rhythm of the game. A lot of it, too, with me — I kind of say the same stuff during the regular season — if I have space, I’m going to shoot it. Tonight, for instance, I was able to get 10 shots up. So a lot of times, it was like, if I have space or I’m moving, I’m looking to try and be aggressive. The game sort of fluctuates, so you just have to take and give whatever the game gives you. Tonight was one of those situations where I got a lot of open looks early, and then you get the confidence going and start hunting a little more and guys are looking for you.”

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