Nets determined to ramp up defensive effort vs. Celtics in Game 4: 'They definitely are gonna have belief now'

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Steve Nash Kevin Durant Boston Game 3
Steve Nash Kevin Durant Boston Game 3

The Nets entered Friday’s Game 3 in Boston will all of the momentum on their side, looking like they might make easy work of the Celtics and cruise to the next round.

But thanks to a 50-point effort from Jayson Tatum, the Celtics climbed back into the series with a crucial 125-119 Game 3 win, proving that they were never going to just roll over without a fight.

“They definitely are gonna have belief now,” Nets head coach Steve Nash said after the game. “They got a win at home and were able to stop the momentum after playing two games in Brooklyn. Big challenge for us. We’ve got to come out and be sharper, be better at both ends of the floor and try to slow them down and execute offensively.”

Tatum was an absolute force for the Celtics, shooting 16-of-30 from the floor, including 5-of-11 from downtown in his 50-point effort. He helped Boston erase an early 19-4 deficit, and then came up with big shots throughout the game any time the Nets looked do dig into the Boston lead.

“Especially Tatum, he had some tough ones over us tonight,” Kevin Durant said after the game. “I don’t think he got anything easy, but for a scorer like that, once you start to see the ball go into the rim, it just pushed that team to another level. So I feel like the fadeaways he was making, the step-back threes, those are his shots but we’ve still got to contest on them, so I think we’ve got to be more physical as a group with our switches and our rebounding and getting out in transition. We’ll watch the film and see how we can get better.

“We started off the game well, but for the whole game we’ve got to consistently be there for each other defensible. If we do that, we’re in good shape. Their best player had 50 points, we got 23 from Marcus Smart and we’re still in the game late. That’s as solid a sign of anything, but we don’t want to take no moral victories out of nothing, we’ve just got to come back with it next game.”

Sunday’s Game 4 now becomes even more crucial, as the Nets can either push Boston to the brink of elimination, or the Celtics can even up the series with all of the momentum on their side.

James Harden – who scored a team-high 41 points on Friday – knows the Nets must be better the next time they take the floor on Sunday, particularly on the defensive end.

“We’ve got to play better as a unit, and we will in Game 4,” Harden said. “And this thing isn’t going to get easy for us, like, it’s going to be difficult. We expect that.

“We’ve got to take up on the challenge of being more detailed on our coverages on both ends and whatever we’ve got to do, and just take it possession-by-possession. … We let them line up threes, let them line up shots and they made them tonight.”