BOSTON — Jayson Tatum made a spinning layup at the buzzer on a pass from Marcus Smart to give the Boston Celtics a dramatic 115-114 victory over the Brooklyn Nets in the Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series Sunday.
Tatum scored 16 of his 31 points in the second half, the final two after a poised Boston possession in the frantic final seconds. Jaylen Brown dribbled toward the middle and swung the ball out to Smart, who fired it to a cutting Tatum, who spun around a defender and dropped in his layup just before time expired.
Brown added 23 points. Al Horford had 20 points and 15 rebounds, and Smart finished with 20 points, including four three-pointers.
Kyrie Irving finished with 39 points and Kevin Durant added 23 for the Nets, but he shot just nine of 24 from the field, including a last miss that set up the Celtics’ final possession.
Boston charged out of halftime with a 23-8 run to open a 82-69 lead, sparked by Smart’s dead-eye shooting from beyond the arc.
The Celtics also seemed to tweak their approach to guarding Durant in the half court, fronting him and sending help over the top to limit his driving ability.
Durant and Irving still found ways to score at times, but they had to exert increased energy to get off their attempts. It didn’t last.
With Boston leading early in the fourth, Irving got Brooklyn back in the mix with two straight three-pointers and a layup to trim Boston’s advantage to 98-97 with just more than nine minutes left. Then, following an empty trip by Boston that saw Brown and Horford fail to convert in the lane, Durant calmly drained a three-pointer on the other end to put the Nets in front.
Brooklyn increased its lead to 107-102 when Irving made a three-pointer. Brown found space two possessions later for Celtics and connected on a three-pointer from the wing. The Nets turned it back over on a offensive foul by Durant. Smart slid underneath Irving on Boston’s ensuing trip and tied it with a layup.
The score was tied again at 109 with less than two minutes left when Durant got a friendly bounce on a baseline jumper to put Brooklyn ahead. Horford’s follow shot then tied it. But Irving was good from deep on the next time down the floor to give the Nets a 114-111 cushion.
Brown pulled the Celtics to within 114-113 coming out of a timeout with 38.9 seconds left, and after a Durant miss on a three-pointer with 15 seconds left, it set up Boston to win it on Tatum’s late basket.