Scout on what he saw from Nets' Game 1 win over Celtics: 'They took Boston’s best punch and bounced back'

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James Harden flexes during Game 1 vs. Celtics
James Harden flexes during Game 1 vs. Celtics

Here’s a scout’s take on the Nets’ Game 1 win over the Celtics, and what he learned about the club that could apply to the rest of the playoffs:

STILL THE BEST TEAM IN THE EAST

“To me, this was one of the best possible results for (Brooklyn). They couldn’t make shots in the first half. (James) Harden, (Kyrie) Irving and (Kevin) Durant all missed threes they usually make. If they get through that kind of half and win, that’s a great result for them. They hit shots in the second half, which you knew they were going to do, and defended. We had all these questions about their defense and whether they had enough to get through the East. That’s why (Saturday) was so encouraging. Nothing about (Game 1) changed my mind about them being (the best team) in the East.”

Brooklyn went 1-for-13 from beyond the arc in the first half. Harden, Irving and Durant combined to go 0-for-11. After the game, Harden said he may have been affected by playing in front of a big crowd for the first time. Barclays Center was sold out for Game 1 (14,391 fans). That was by far the biggest crowd the Nets had played in front of this season.

Brooklyn seemed to settle down in the third quarter.

The Big 3 combined for 28 of the Nets’ 31 points in the quarter; Brooklyn took a five-point lead that it wouldn’t relinquish.

“They took Boston’s best punch and bounced back,” the scout said. “Impressive resiliency for a group that hasn’t played together.”

BIG 3 CHEMISTRY IS “ONGOING” PROCESS

Because of injuries, COVID restrictions or absences due to personal reasons, Irving, Harden and Durant had played only eight games together in the regular season.

They played 24 minutes together on Saturday. Brooklyn was outscored by one in that span and shot 48 percent from the field but 25 percent from beyond the arc. Boston shot 41 percent from beyond the arc when the Nets’ Big 3 was on the floor.

“I wouldn’t get too caught up in one game,” the scout says. “We talked about the (perimeter shooting in) first half and I think that was more an anomaly than anything else. In general, I thought they could have moved the ball more and gotten better shots. They settled too much. But I think this is something you’re going to see early on (in this series). They’re going to develop the quote un-quote chemistry over the course of the series and really, the whole playoffs. It’s an ongoing thing. But they’re so talented that as long as they defend, I think they’ll be fine. You guys (media) probably make a little too much of (the chemistry issue).”

One other note from Game 1: before the game, Steve Nash said two of his better five-man lineups have barely played together. It seems like he was referencing his Game 1 starting lineup (Harden, Durant, Irving, Joe Harris, Blake Griffin). That unit hadn’t started together before Game 1. What was the other five-man lineup?

The coach seemed to be talking about the Harden-Durant-Irving-Griffin-Bruce Brown lineup. Nash started those five late in the regular season.

It’s interesting to note because DeAndre Jordan was a DNP in Game 1. Nic Claxton (6:20) and Landry Shamet (8:20) played spot minutes. Nash turned to Brown (15 minutes) and Jeff Green (16 minutes) off the bench most often.

Given the opponent, maybe Nash keeps Jordan out of the rotation entirely this series. It seems like Brooklyn could need Jordan in a series against a team with a more dominant big man (Philadelphia and Joel Embiid, for example). Something worth keeping an eye on as the Nets-Celtics series continues.