Brooklyn Boro

Joe Harris sharp-shoots Nets to 2-0 lead

Veteran’s hot start propels Brooklyn to rout of Boston

May 26, 2021 John Torenli, Sports Editor
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The Big Three got a huge early lift from Brooklyn’s longest-tenured player and rode it to an easy Game 2 win over the Boston Celtics at Downtown’s Barclays Center Tuesday night.

Joe Harris scored 16 of his career playoff-high 25 points in the first quarter as the title-hungry Nets breezed to a 130-108 rout of the Celtics in front of 14,774 Brooklyn hoops fanatics on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush.

Harris, acquired prior to the 2016-17 campaign, went a blistering 4-for-4 from 3-point range in the opening minutes as the Nets hit 11 of their first 14 shots to bury any hopes of a Boston rebound following Sunday’s series-opening win by Brooklyn.

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Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving were instrumental in helping the Nets overcome a 12-point first-half deficit in Game 1, but it was Harris who made sure there would be no significant lead for the Celtics Tuesday.

He finished with a team playoff record-tying seven 3-pointers and hit all but five of the 14 shots he attempted.

Harris also had four rebounds, three assists, two steals, a blocked shot and only one turnover in 29 scintillating minutes.

“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,” said Irving, who added 15 points, six boards and six helpers to Brooklyn’s multi-pronged attack.

“Good night for Joe, good night for all of us to just play off one another and just make easy reads.”

Durant finished with a team-high 26 points and Harden had 20 points and seven assists for the Nets, who scored a team-record 109 points through three quarters, just enough to beat Boston’s total for the entire game.

Despite their lofty status as the top triumvirate in the league, Durant, Harden and Irving readily ceded that Harris was the key to their Game 2 win, especially after the entire team struggled out of the gate in the opener.

“Joe had it going tonight,” said Harden. “We all knew that. Me, K.D. 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 3, it could be someone else. We’re just all looked in and on the same page. Whatever it takes to win.”

Irving would doubtlessly love to be the one to stick a fork in the Celtics on Friday night.

The mercurial point guard left Boston for Brooklyn two summers ago after what can best be described as a general disenchantment with the organization, his teammates and perhaps even the Beantown fan base.

“I am just looking forward to competing with my teammates and hopefully, we can just keep it strictly basketball; there’s no belligerence or racism going on — subtle racism,” Irving noted.

“People yelling from the crowd, but even if it is, it’s part of the nature of the game and we’re just going to focus on what we can control.”

Kyrie Irving would like nothing better than to sweep his former Boston teammates out of the playoffs this week. AP Photo by Kathy Willens

The Nets have been in control of the Celtics all season, sweeping the three regular-season contests and taking the first two games of this series here in Brooklyn.

Jayson Tatum, Boston’s biggest scoring threat entering the playoffs, managed just nine points on 3-of-12 shooting in Game 2 before exiting the contest after being poked in the right eye.

His status for Friday’s game remains uncertain, further compounding the Celtics’ clear disadvantage in this series.

“We’ve got to be way better,” Boston coach Brad Stevens ceded.

Even if they are better Friday night, it’s unlikely it will be enough to offset an offense that can beat you in so many ways.

“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 and as many possessions as possible.”

Game 4 will also be in Boston on Sunday night at 7 p.m.

Celtics star Jayson Tatum left Game 2 with an eye injury. His status for Friday’s Game 3 in Boston in uncertain. AP Photo by Kathy Willens

NOTHING BUT NET: The Nets have won nine consecutive postseason games vs. Boston, and have lost just twice in 11 playoff meetings overall between the teams. … Blake Griffin had 11 points and Landry Shamet added 10 off the bench Tuesday, giving Brooklyn six players who finished in double figures in scoring, including all five starters. … Game 5, if necessary, will be back at Barclays Center on Tuesday.

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