BOSTON (CBS) — That was close. Much, much too close for the Boston Celtics. But after Boston blew a big second-half lead to the Nets in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series, Jayson Tatum stole the victory back for the Celtics.
Tatum made a spinning layup at the buzzer to lift Boston to a stunning — and thrilling — 115-114 victory on Sunday. The Celtics defense shut down Kyrie Irving on the previous possession — which seemed impossible with the way Irving went off in the fourth quarter — to give the team a chance. Marcus Smart and Al Horford combined forces to keep Irving away from the hoop, and Kevin Durant had to send up a prayer at the shot clock buzzer as Tatum cut off his driving lane.READ MORE: Celtics-Heat Eastern Conference Finals preview: Two tough defenses against two balanced attacks
Durant’s three missed and the Celtics raced down the floor, with Jaylen Brown drawing a pair of defenders as he drove into the paint. He fed Smart, who passed up a great look at a three to hit a streaking Tatum, who finished just ahead of the buzzer to lift Boston to the win. It was Tatum’s first career game-winner at the buzzer, and it gave Boston a 1-0 lead in the series.
JAYSON TATUM FOR THE WIN!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/WUr4UsaURk
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) April 17, 2022
Tatum finished with 31 points to go with eight assists, 16 of which came in the second half. He had just four points in the final quarter as Brooklyn hounded him with double teams, but he scored the two most important points with the game on the line.
Horford was magnificent for Boston with 20 points and 15 rebounds, keeping the Celtics in it in the first half as the rest of the offense struggled. Smart had 20 points, six assists and seven rebounds, while Brown added 23 points in his 40 minutes.
We’ll see what the two teams have for a follow-up with Game 2 set for Wednesday night in Boston.
After the two teams went into the locker room at halftime tied 61-61, the Celtics took over in the third. Just about everything went right for Boston, as the Celtics built a 15-point lead at one point. Brown blocked a Bruce Brown layup and then finished on the other end, and Tatum blocked a Kevin Durant three and turned it into a triple of his own to put Boston up 96-85 heading into the final quarter.READ MORE: Celtics-Heat Eastern Conference Finals Schedule
But that is when Brooklyn woke up, thanks in large part to Irving and his incredible shot-making ability. The Nets rattled off a 15-2 run to start the fourth quarter, with Kyrie scoring eight straight at one point. He drained back-to-back threes, and shot Boston fans a look — and a quick gesture that he’ll likely hear from the league about — to cut Boston’s lead to three. A Durant three after Brown missed a bunny and Horford missed the put-back dunk gave Brooklyn a 100-98 lead.
Irving drained a three with 5:30 left to put the Nets on top 107-102 and force the Celtics to call a timeout. The Celtics started the fourth quarter 0-for-7 with four turnovers.
That timeout helped the Celtics get themselves together and straighten out a bit. Brown canned a three and Smart turned a Durant turnover into a driving layup, tying the game at 107-107 with 3:15 to go.
Durant nearly lost the ball with just over a minute to go, but was able to gather the ball and himself and knock down a jumper with 1:16 to go to put Brooklyn on top 111-109. Horford put back a Smart miss to tie it back up, but Irving answered at the other end with a go-ahead three, putting the Nets on topn114-111 with 45.9 left in the game.
Kyrie had a game-high 39 points, pouring in 18 points in the fourth quarter.
Brown put in an easy one for the Celtics with 38.9 left to make it a 114-113 game. That’s when the Celtics defense locked down on Irving, who eventually had to give it up to Durant for a forced three at the shot clock buzzer. Smart then fed Tatum under the basket at the other end, and the rest is history.MORE NEWS: Marcus Smart questionable for Celtics-Heat Game 1 with foot injury
The Boston defense stifled Durant for the majority of the game, holding the Nets superstar to 23 points off 9-for-24 shooting.