Celtics’ Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown trump Durant and Irving

The Celtics once again received the kind of leadership at both ends of the court from their star players that the Nets of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving desperately needed — but didn’t get.

Jayson Tatum posted a game-high 39 points and Jaylen Brown added 23 as the Celtics swept the nets in a 109-103 win at the Barclays Center on Saturday night. Tatum’s performance surpassed the combined total of Durant and Irving, who finished with 16 each.

“I’m not trying to make it a one-on-one thing [with Durant] or a matchup thing, just do whatever it takes to win,” Tatum said after the game. “As long as we win, that’s all I care about.”

Tatum has also defended much of the series against Durant, and the Celtics’ top-flight defense kept the Nets superstar on 31.7 percent shots and just 11 field goal attempts (6-for- 11) in Game 3.

“He’s been that for us all year,” Boston coach Ime Udoka said of Tatum, who finished with six steals. “We’ve talked about how our team as a collective entity is number one on defense and that requires everyone’s input. He is not always believed to be capable of that because of his goalscoring skills.”

Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum
Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum
Getty Images; EPA

When asked if he thinks the Celtics upset Durant, Brown said, “I’m not worried about what KD thinks. I worry about what we think. Our task is to make him guess a little and make it difficult. But Kevin Durant is Kevin Durant. He’s been through a tough time and we want it to stay that way. Because we know what he can do.”

The second-placed Celtics, who get their first chance to win the series in Game 4 on Monday, welcomed Robert Williams III back for the first time since he tore a meniscus on March 27 and underwent surgery three days later.

The shot-blocking Boston Big Man scored just two points off the bench in 16 minutes, but those came in the second quarter via an emphatic alley-oop dunk on a feed from Tatum.

Ben Simmons has targeted Game 4 for his return from a back injury – and his first appearance with the Nets since being acquired by the 76ers in February’s blockbuster trade from James Harden. Williams’ return further bolstered Boston’s defense, which ranked first in the NBA during the regular season.

The 6-foot-9 Williams finished fourth in the NBA with 2.2 blocked shots per game while averaging nearly a double-double (10.0 points and 9.6 rebounds) scored. Shortly after entering the game early in the second quarter, Williams also turned down a drive from Andre Drummond to the rim.

“When you get out of there, it helps you not to think about it,” Williams said of his knee. “I’m going straight into a playoff game and I only have one job to do to help my team win.” Celtics’ Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown trump Durant and Irving


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