Jayson Tatum’s Buzzer-Beating Layup Snatched Game 1 Away From The Nets

Coming into the first round, all eyes were on the 2-7 series in the Eastern Conference, as the Boston Celtics would play host to the Brooklyn Nets in a matchup worthy of a conference finals, and Game 1 delivered on every single level.

The two teams would battle in a choppy, physical first half to a 61-61 tie, with a first quarter featuring 18 fouls, the most in any quarter all season in the NBA. In the second half, things would open up and we got the shotmaking clinic we expected from a series featuring some of the best individual scorers in the NBA. Jayson Tatum started the game as a facilitator with the Nets sending doubles and showing extra bodies every time he touched the ball, but eventually he got loose as he went for 31 points on 9-of-18 shooting, along with eight assists and four rebounds.

He got help in the backcourt from Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown, who combined for 43 points and six steals, and on the inside Al Horford took Bruce Brown’s critique the Nets would be able to exploit Boston’s centers without Robert Williams to heart and put forth a massive 20-point, 15-rebound effort. That group led the Celtics to a big run to open the third quarter, opening up a 15-point lead to take control of the game.

However, the Nets had the answer in the form of Kyrie Irving, who got into it with the Celtics crowd on a few occasions and went off in the fourth quarter to help close the gap and, ultimately, give the Nets a lead of their own.

The closing minute of the game was nothing short of pandemonium, as Irving hit a side-step three to push the Nets ahead by three with 46 seconds to play, giving him 39 points on the afternoon.

Jaylen Brown quickly got to the rim on the next Boston possession to cut the lead to one, and then the Celtics were able to get the stop they needed, swarming Irving twice with doubles and forcing Kevin Durant into a missed three-pointer. As Horford corralled the rebound, Boston chose not to use its timeout and had Jaylen Brown bring the ball up the floor for a wild final possession that led, somehow, to a spinning layup at the buzzer for Tatum, sending TD Garden into a frenzy.

It was an incredible cut from Tatum and find by Smart amid chaos, with Boston snatching the win away from Brooklyn in the most painful way possible. Somehow, it was the first buzzer-beater in the playoffs for the Celtics at home in franchise history, giving Tatum a rare place alone in Boston lore.

Rarely does a game get this much hype and over-deliver, but Game 1 absolutely did that. Both teams will feel like they should’ve won Game 1 with how well they played defensively, as Brooklyn tightened up tremendously for the final 20 minutes while Boston will feel great about their gameplan to frustrate Durant, who had 23 points on 24 shots. Irving was magnificent though and showed how the Nets can exploit the attention Boston is sending to Durant, as his 1-on-1 play and speed can neutralize the Celtics’ length and strength.

For the Celtics, they have to be thrilled with Horford’s play in particular, as his activity on both ends was a key difference maker, and any time you get a good Smart shooting game, it’s something you want to take advantage of with a win. Game 2 will be fascinating to see what adjustments come from both teams, but we can expect another incredible game, although maybe not without quite this thrilling an ending.