After scoring 50 points in Boston’s play-in tournament victory, Tatum struggled in the two games in Brooklyn but steadied the Celtics in Game 3 after the Nets shot out to a quick 15-point lead.
“There’s nothing like playing at home in front of your home crowd,” he said. “We’re going up against a juggernaut of a team. Like I said before, the world knows it and we know it. It’s not going to be easy. You can’t lay down, you can’t take a step back. You have to be able to press forward and that’s what we did tonight.”
It was Irving’s first game in front of Boston’s fans since he left via free agency in 2019.
James Harden led the Nets with 41 points, Kevin Durant had 39 and Irving finished with 16 on 6-of-17 shooting.
Smart added 23 points, Tristan Thompson gave Boston a huge lift with 19 points and 13 rebounds and Evan Fournier added 17 points.
KYRIE’S BOSTON ENDING
Irving’s two seasons with the Celtics ended rocky after he became a “Lightning rod” with the fans because of a belief he was unable to mesh with its young stars Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who carried Boston to the 2018 Eastern Conference finals when Irving missed the playoffs with a knee injury.