The Brooklyn Nets officially have sole possession of the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Nets held off the Boston Celtics for a 109-104 win and improve to 40-20 on the season. A plucky Celtics team threatened until the final seconds, but some clutch free-throw shooting from the Nets ensured they took the win.
A number of stars were missing for both teams in what was an important matchup for both teams with playoff seeding on the line. Let's jump to some of the takeaways.
Nets role players deliver
All season long Brooklyn's depth has delivered while the superstar names take turns on the sideline with various injuries.
On this night it was Jeff Green who stepped up, with a mix of inside and outside offence leading to a big night for the veteran forward.
Green finished with 19 points on 3-for-5 from beyond the arc. On top of the jump shooting, Green also attacked the basket to get to the line for six attempts. Averaging 10.3 points per game this season, Green's contributions have been huge, with the 34-year-old topping 20 points on six seperate occassions.
Along with Green, Joe Harris was his usual productive self, adding 20 points including consecutive 3-point makes in a 30 second span near the end of the third quarter that broke the game open. Harris led all scorers for Brooklyn to finish with 20 points.
Kyrie has rare off night on offence
Kyrie Irving is must watch on any given night, but when Durant and Harden are out of the lineup you always get the sense something special could happen.
It wasn't quite the case in this one, as Irving had a rare off night on offence to finish with just 13 points on 4-for-19 shooting from the floor. On top of the shooting struggles, Irving also committed five turnovers and appeared to lack his usual touch on that end of the floor.
Despite the tough night, Irving did ice the game at the free-throw line, making both with 1.9 seconds left to ensure the Nets took the important win.
Blake the defensive presence?
Blake Griffin's adaptability within Brooklyn's roster continues to be a talking point, with the veteran forward prepared to do whatever is asked of him within the offence and defence.
No longer a featured player on offence, Griffin has accepted his role player status, taking his opportunities as they come in the flow. During the third quarter, Griffin took two consecutive charges, highlighting his willingness to get down and dirty and do the little things that contribute to winning.
Griffin finished with 13 points and five rebounds and oh yeah, he added another dunk to his total.
IN COMES BLAKE‼️@blakegriffin23 | #BrooklynTogether pic.twitter.com/AplXPVmIcY- Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) April 24, 2021
Talk about a bounce back.
Celtics All-Star Jayson Tatum struggled to finish with just 15 points on 3-for-17 shooting 24 hours earlier against Phoenix, and took little time to shake off the memories of that performance. Without Kemba Walker and Jaylen Brown in the lineup, Tatum carried the load, pouring in 25 points in a first half explosion on a very efficient 9-for-14 from the field.
It was a classic jump shooting display from Tatum, as he knocked down five triples through two quarters on a variety of step backs and catch-and-shoot opportunities. Players other than Tatum in the first half were 9-for-30 from the field, highlighting his impact on the game as the Celtics trailed 60-51.
Jayson Tatum, feeling it early.- NBA (@NBA) April 24, 2021
He's got 17 in the first half on ESPN pic.twitter.com/oG5W9Rfe8C
Tatum cooled off slightly in the second half, but still finished with 38 points on 14-for-27 from the field.
KD remains out
Brooklyn superstar Kevin Durant was ruled out prior to tip-off, as he continues his recovery from a left thigh injury. It's the third straight game Durant has missed, after sustaining the injury early in the Nets' loss to the Miami Heat last week.
The Nets say Kevin Durant (left thigh contusion) is out tonight against Boston.- Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) April 23, 2021
Durant has now missed 36 games with various ailments throughout the 2020-21 season. He is averaging 27.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists across 24 appearances with Brooklyn.
Fellow MVP winner, James Harden is not expected to return for a while, as he continues his recovery from a hamstring issue.
Mike James joins Nets
Brooklyn announced the signing of Mike James prior to tip tonight, with the guard joining the team on a 10-day contract.
"Still haven't met him, but he's a scorer, he's one of the top players in Europe this season," head coach Steve Nash said pregame. "He's played in the NBA, I think he gives us some ball handling as well. I think he's gotta play tonight frankly so we'll see how the game goes but my guess is that he plays tonight."
OFFICIAL: The Brooklyn Nets have signed free agent guard Mike James to a 10-day contract. pic.twitter.com/bvLPMYkaAq- Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) April 23, 2021
The 30-year-old did check into the game with 3:55 left in the first quarter, replacing Joe Harris, earning a trip to the free-throw line soon after for his first points with the team.
Both teams will have one night off, with Brooklyn hosting Phoenix next, and Boston heading to Charlotte.
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