Rapid Recap: Tatum’s historic night and team-wide heart propel Celtics to Game 3 victory

NBA: Playoffs-Brooklyn Nets at Boston Celtics

The Celtics avenged their Game 2 blowout with an outstanding 125-119 win in Game 3, off the back of a 50-6-7-2-1 performance. (One of only six 50-point playoff games in Celtics history, BTW.)

The way this game unfolded, doing a real-time-style recap seemed appropriate. Before we start:

As for the basketball:

Although Kemba drew first blood, the Nets offensive buzzsaw quickly screamed to life and started chewing through Celtics defenders’ flesh and bones like confetti. It was all so goddamn fast you could hardly tell whether Boston was truly defending poorly or being blitzed by an unstoppable force. (In this case I’m leaning toward the latter.)

Props to JT for catching fire and putting some cramp in the Nets step, as well as the team overall (led by Marcus Smart) imposing some physicality wherever possible. The Nets’ own defense yielded from the counterpunch, and at the end of Q1, the home team that’d been down 15 was up 33-32.

With Tatum supremely in his bag and Marcus not far off (en route to a 23-3-6-1 line for the game), the Cs continued to pour on as much punishment as possible and held their lead for the early going of Q2. The Nets’ level of firepower meant Boston never got things into blowout territory, but any lead against Brooklyn is one you cherish.

That’s because Grant Williams was capably defending James Harden. No small feat!

Tatum was undoubtedly the star of the first half, but the Frenchman did start to get his jumper off as halftime crept up on us, with the Cs holding their lead at 61-57.

This gave me no small amount of glee:

IMO, if Kyrie Irving annoys you more than Blake Griffin, you should re-evaluate your priorities. But I digress: Boston kept a small but respectable lead going through the opening of the second half. Brooklyn’s offensive punch had weakened notably as Kyrie seemed unable to get out of a slump. There was no Celtics answer for Kevin Durant, but they had answers for most other Nets players. Also, the Nets had no answer for Tatum or Smart.

But the story had been, and remained, Jayson Tatum.

With 12 minutes to go Boston held a 96-84 lead. Now, I should note that I’m not always enamored of Bernardoni’s doomerism, but his point below was spot on. It would take the full squad to hold this lead.

Who he left out of that equation was Tristan Thompson, who may tonight have had his best game as a Celtic, racking up 19 points, 13 boards (9 of them offensive) and a dime for the night. As more than a few fans pointed out, it was like the games he had against the Celtics so many goddamn times back in the day!

Things were dicey in the 4th with Tatum off of the court (and even for the first minute he was back on). Kyrie made a couple of big threes to draw things closer, and James Harden took the reins to score about a third of his total points in the final frame.

But Tatum and Smart just kept pushing, and Fournier made critical jumpers seemingly whenever Brooklyn got within anything resembling striking distance.

Some questionable reffing and one or two goofy fouls got things a bit nail-biting in the final minutes, but in the end Tatum’s Herculean play and the squad’s inspiring effort kept the Celtics alive in a series they were widely expected to be swept in.

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