BOSTON — The Nets are officially a losing team.
Plunging them into loser land, the Celtics handed Brooklyn a 126-120 loss in front of a sold-out crowd of 19,156 at the TD Garden – many of whom booed Kyrie Irving’s every touch and chanted “Kyrie sucks!” in the waning moments.
Those dwindling minutes were a bitter pill for the Nets to swallow. Kevin Durant (37 points) had played brilliantly to give them a 98-97 lead in the fourth quarter. But they conceded an 8-0 run to lose the momentum and eventually the game.
Durant may be the best player in the world, but Boston’s Jayson Tatum was the best player on the court on Sunday. He poured in a game-high 54 points, with 36 in the first three quarters before dominating with 18 in the fourth.
Irving had 19 points on 8 of 18 shots with six assists and taunted every time he touched the ball. It was only the fourth time he and Durant had played together this season, and the duo’s first game to start alongside newcomers Seth Curry and Andre Drummond. There is a lot to do and now with only 17 games there is little time left.
The Nets (32-33) are in a virtual three-way tie with the Hornets and Hawks for eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, with a big visit to Charlotte on Tuesday night.
Brooklyn is three full games behind Toronto in seventh place and five behind Cleveland in sixth place for the last guaranteed playoff spot. The Raptors and Cavaliers face off Sunday night. The Nets were closer to being eliminated from the playoffs — 2 1/2 games ahead of the Wizards ahead of Washington’s game at the Pacers Sunday night — than they would catch Toronto.
The Nets trailed 79-76 after Jaylen Brown – a game-time decision for Boston – found tall veteran Al Horford for a slicing dunk with 5:20 left in the third quarter.
Brooklyn reeled off 11 unanswered points to temporarily capitalize on momentum. After Durant found Bruce Brown for a cutting layup, center LaMarcus Aldridge followed with a put back and a pull-up jumper. And after earning two free throws and sinking both, Durant capped the run with a 3-pointer pull-up.
Brooklyn led 87-79 with three minutes remaining in the third. But it was a pillow it couldn’t protect.
Nic Claxton – who came on after Drummond struggled with Boston’s mobility – committed an ill-advised foul that challenged Tatum on the edge, just 3.6 seconds into the quarter. The Celtics star hit all three free throws to cut Brooklyn’s lead to 90-89.
Boston was ahead 97-95. And even after Durant drew Tatum’s fourth foul – Celtics coach Ime Udoka lost a tackle and claimed his star was shoved into Durant – and scored three free throws to give the Nets a 98-97 lead, they couldn’t keep.
The Nets gave up an 8-0 run to lose control of the game. Tatum’s free throws capped the blitz, leaving Brooklyn 6-26 to play 108-100.
A driving layup by Tatum left Brooklyn 110-102, but the Nets reeled off nine unanswered points.
A Curry 3-pointer put the nets 111-110 with 3:29 to play, but it didn’t last.
Tatum followed two free throws with heavy drive into contact for a 114-111 edge. Brooklyn never led again.
Durant became only the 23rd player – and seventh fastest player (by number of games) – to reach 25,000 points.
https://nypost.com/2022/03/06/jayson-tatum-torches-nets-to-send-them-crashing-below-500/ Jayson Tatum torches nets to crash them below .500