The Celtics again received the type of leading performance at both ends of the field from their star players that the Nets desperately needed – but did not get – from Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Jayson Tatum scored 39 points and Jaylen Brown added 23 as the Celtics moved within one win after sweeping the Nets with a 109-103 win Saturday night at Barclays Center. Tatum’s output exceeded the total number for both Durant and Irving, which finished with 16 pieces.
“I’m not trying to make it a one-on-one thing [with Durant] or a match thing, just doing what I can to win, ”Tatum said after the match. “As long as we won, that’s the only thing I care about.”
Tatum has also defended against Durant for much of the series, and the Celtics’ top-rated defense held the Nets superstar to 31.7 percent shooting in the first two games of the series in Boston and to only 11 field-goal attempts (6- for- 11) in game 3.
“He’s been there all year for us,” Boston coach Ime Udoka said of Tatum, who finished with six steals. “We have talked about our team as a collective unit being the number one defensive team and that requires everyone to buy in. He does not always get the credit for that because of his scoring ability.”
Asked if he thinks the Celtics have confused Durant, Brown said: “I’m not worried about what KD thinks. I’m worried about what we think. Our job is to get him to guess a little and make it difficult. But “Kevin Durant is Kevin Durant. He’s had a hard time and we want to keep it that way. Because we know what he can do.”
The second-seeded Celtics, who get their first chance to sweep the series on Monday in Game 4, welcomed Robert Williams III back for the first time since suffering a torn meniscus on March 27 and being operated on three days later.
The shot-blocking Boston big man scored just two points in 16 minutes from the bench, but they came on an emphatic spawning-oop-dunk on a feed from Tatum in the second quarter.
Ben Simmons has targeted Game 4 for his return from a back injury – and his first appearance with the Nets since being acquired from the 76ers in James Harden’s blockbuster trade in February. Williams’ return further strengthened a Boston defense that ranked first in the NBA in the regular season.
6-foot-9 Williams finished in fourth place in the NBA with 2.2 blocked shots per game. match, while on average they had almost a double-double (10.0 points and 9.6 rebounds) at 29.6 minutes per game. match over 61 starting appearances. Shortly after entering the game early in the second quarter, Williams also rejected a Andre Drummond drive to the edge.
“When you get out there, it helps you not to think about it,” Williams said of his knee. “When I got straight into a playoff game, I just got a job done to help my team win.”