Celtics vs. Nets takeaway: Jayson Tatum’s Game 1 Buzzer-Beater, Final Stand show Boston’s best attributes

The Boston Celtics’ 15-point lead was gone, Kyrie Irving had caught fire and just 11 seconds remained to salvage their series opener on Sunday. Derrick White slipped the ball into the transition and handed it to Jaylen Brown, who drove the baseline, and when two Brooklyn Nets cut him off, he spun left and kicked it to Marcus Smart. Instead of trying to be the hero, Smart Pump-Fake dribbled past the two nets flying his way and dealt it to a slicing Jayson Tatum.

spin movement. Hang up. Game. Chaos.

“Honestly, I think we all thought Smart was going to shoot it,” Tatum said. “So, last second shot, just smash the glass; if it doesn’t go in, try making a game. But when he took that dribble, we just sort of made eye contact. And he made a great pass. I just had to do one layup.”

The game-winner at TD Garden gave Tatum 31 points on 9-for-18 shooting, Smart his sixth assist and the Celtics a 115-114 win in Game 1. It also gave Boston a massive sigh of relief.

“These are the best games,” said Tatum. “The games that are the most rewarding, the most fun, just like a competitor. We’re 15 up and we’re going down five and … all you have to do is just figure it out.”

Brooklyn started the fourth quarter down 11 points. It had committed 14 turnovers and been hit on the glass. The Nets took the lead on a 15-2 run, largely fueled by Irving, who scored 18 of his 39-strong game in the last frame. Irving did his damage on 12-for-20 shooting with six assists, four steals and five rebounds.

Kevin Durant finished the game with 23 points on 9-for-24 shooting, with four rebounds, three assists and six turnovers, an unusually inefficient performance. Nicolas Claxton and Goran Dragic combined for 27 points and 13 rebounds from Brooklyn’s bench, and Claxton made three saves.

The Celtics held a 56-32 point lead in the paint. Smart finished with 20 points on 8-for-17 shooting, plus seven rebounds and two steals in the win.

Here are three food stalls from the thriller in Boston:

1. The Last Stand

The very last game of the game was the most memorable, but the last 46 seconds had to be executed perfectly for the Celtics to walk away with a win. In a time-out following a 3-pointer from Irving, Boston coach Ime Udoka set up a set piece that prompted Horford to look far outside the 3-point line for Tatum. The Nets pinned Tatum from above, which meant Durant and Claxton, their top rim protectors, weren’t anywhere near the basket, allowing Brown to go one-on-one without worrying about auxiliary defense. He got a quick 2 and then the Celtics needed a stop.

Taking a gamble, Boston sent Irving a double team with 10 seconds on the shot clock, and instead of leaving the ball, Irving tried to dribble away from it. Eventually, he passed to Durant with four seconds left, resulting in a deep, desperate 3-pointer via Tatum’s outstretched arm.

“Both endings we finally got what we wanted,” said Udoka.

Durant is one of the few players on the planet who can take that shot, but the fact that he had to take it meant Boston had done its job. Horford snagged the rebound, and the Celtics went into transition with a built-in size and athletic advantage. There was no need to take a time-out and allow Brooklyn to put his best defensive lineup on the floor.

“We talk about it all the time,” Udoka said. “If I don’t like what I see, I can always take a time out and wind up a few seconds before the end.”

All of the Celtics’ best qualities were on display on these crucial possessions. They fielded a lineup with no weak links on the defensive – Smart, White, Brown, Tatum and Horford – and everyone had to communicate, improvise, stay calm and be selfless. Horford said he was proud of the team’s composure and Smart described the result as “fulfilling” because they had shown resilience.

“Especially because of the way we started this year,” said Smart. “We would have lost those kinds of games. We probably would have collapsed. And for a moment it looked like that was the direction it was going.”

Smart said Boston “had a lot to learn from a lot of games in incidents like this, so we just wanted to make sure we didn’t go out like that. And everyone did their job.”

2. Big Al’s Big Game

Boston is asking a lot of Horford. The 35-year-old tall man played 41 minutes and spent considerable time as a roving deputy defender, much like Robert Williams III before his injury. Horford also spent some time defending superstars on the rim and unlike the last time those teams met when he switched to Durant or Irving, he didn’t have Williams behind him serving as a shot-blocking security blanket.

Horford finished the game with 20 points on 8-for-13 shooting and 15 rebounds, six of which fell on the offensive glass. As a team, the Celtics snagged a staggering 41.7 percent of their misses, which paid Brooklyn to play two — and sometimes three — small guards at a time and seed Seth Curry against Daniel Theis.

A few of Horford’s putbacks:

He also missed a putback dunk on a fast break in the fourth quarter…

…but redeemed himself in the end. Horford is the guy who double-assisted Irving on the nets last offensive possession, and he’s the guy who caught the defensive rebound that led to Tatum’s game-winner.

3. Irving, crazy

Irving freaked out, and it was almost enough. His late-game blast included four 3s, three of them outside of dribbling, all difficult, the last against Smart, a Defensive Player of the Year finalist.

Tatum is an all-defense guy himself, and he’s listed at 6-foot-8 with a 6-11 wingspan. Three times in the fourth quarter, Irving went straight for him and got a bucket:

“Obviously he put off some incredible shots,” said Nets coach Steve Nash. “We expect that from him. But in that environment and atmosphere, we needed him to shoot. He was brilliant [in terms of] take a shot tonight.”

Game 2 is in Boston on Wednesday.

Viardos Sports