Sports

Nets’ struggles from 3-point land didn’t sink them this time

The construction of a Nets championship team must be built on a solid foundation, but no one ordered all these bricks.

Normally so right when shooting from beyond the arc, the Nets looked tight Saturday night as they embarked on their playoff series against the Celtics. Shot. Clang. Shot. Doink. Shot. Thud. The largest crowd of the season inside Barclays Center must have been wondering who those imposters were wearing the black Icon unis.

“First playoff game, we didn’t have that touch we usually have,’’ Kevin Durant said.

Consider that the understatement of the night.

The first attempt of the evening for the Nets was an errant 3-pointer by James Harden, a harbinger of things to come. Durant missed from deep. Joe Harris and Harden missed in rapid-fire succession. The Nets were shaking off the rust in the first quarter but eventually, their marksmanship would kick in, as always.

Except that it did not.

Kyrie Irving shoots over Jayson Tatum during the Nets' 104-93 win over the Celtics.
Kyrie Irving shoots over Jayson Tatum during the Nets’ 104-93 win over the Celtics.
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The Nets won a game, beating the Celtics 104-93, to take a 1-0 series lead, but they will need to hit the mark far more effectively than they did in this one to continue to win this time of year. They shot 8 of 34 from 3-point range and every player who attempted from deep had a hand in the carnage. Durant was 1 of 8. Harden and Kyrie Irving were both 2 of 8. Even the usually-deadly Harris was only 2 of 6. It all added up to 8 of 34 shooting from long distance.

Harden offered up one of the strangest explanations for these woes but, given the circumstances, it somehow made sense. After a season playing in empty and then near-empty buildings, the sight and sound of 14,391 in Brooklyn was unnerving.

“I think we got some pretty good looks in that first half, shots just didn’t go in,’’ Harden said. “The crowd kind of just threw me off a little bit. It was pretty loud in there, the vibe is what we’ve been missing and it just threw me off a little bit.’’

The Nets were 0 for 9 from 3-point range in the first quarter, a big reason why they scored a paltry 16 points. At one point in the second quarter, the Celtics were outscoring the Nets 21-0 from deep.

Harris, the NBA 3-point leader this season, finally broke the schneid for his team, but it was an isolated make. The Nets were 1 of 13 on three-pointers at halftime and trailed 53-47. Some of these attempts were in rhythm, plenty of others off the isolation game the Nets often use to their advantage.

This was inexplicable, considering the Nets in the regular season were tied for second (with the Knicks) in the league at 39.3 percent on 3-pointers, behind only the Clippers (41.1 percent).

The Nets never heated up, but they did at least move from putrid to bad, and then bad to acceptable. Irving and Harden hit back-to-back 3s in the third quarter but a hot streak never materialized. It was a rare outing, as the Nets fared better on defense than they did on offense.

“We didn’t shoot as well as we would have wanted but we made timely shots, we got to the free throw line and we stayed aggressive,’’ Irving said.

“We tried to bust the game open, seven, eight points, we got open threes we didn’t make then,’’ Durant said. “I know I missed a lot of bunnies that felt good leaving my hand.’’

Harden did not want to overthink it.

“We just missed shots,’’ he said. “It’s not like we didn’t know what we were doing out there. Don’t have to get too deep into it. We just missed shots.’’

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