BOSTON — Jayson Tatum has been adamant that he doesn’t view the Boston Celtics’ game with the Brooklyn Nets as a chance to prove anything against two of the league’s top scorers.
His finish in Game 1 said otherwise.
Tatum made a layup at the buzzer on a pass from Marcus Smart to give Boston a dramatic 115-114 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.
“When he took that dribble, we just made eye contact. He made a great pass,” Tatum said. “It doesn’t get better than this. A buzzer-beater in a home playoff game.”
Tatum scored 31 points, the last two on the first buzzer-beater of his career. It was Boston’s first in the playoffs since Paul Pierce in 2010 against the Miami Heat.
Tatum’s bucket came after a poised possession from Boston in the frantic final seconds. Kevin Durant missed on the other end, Boston rebounded and ran downfield, choosing not to call a timeout.
Jaylen Brown dribbled down the middle and sent the ball to Smart. He fired it into a cutting Tatum, which spun around and dropped into his lay-up just before time expired.
“I’ve always been told you have more time than you think,” Smart said. “I was about to throw it to Al (Horford) off the dribble and saw JT cut last minute.”
All five Celtics touched the ball on possession.
“I think it’s kind of a microcosm for our season, the guys who move the ball are selfless,” coach Ime Udoka said.
Dating back to the last playoffs, Tatum has four straight 30-point playoff games, tying Larry Bird in 1987 for the longest streak in Celtics history.
Brown added 23 points. Horford had 20 points and 15 rebounds, and Smart finished with 20 points, including four 3-pointers.
Kyrie Irving finished with 39 points, including 18 in the fourth quarter. But the Celtics forced the ball out of his hands the last time Brooklyn had it and Durant missed a jumper with a one-point lead that established final possession for the Celtics.
Durant added 23 points but only shot 9 of 24.
“They did a good job forcing me out and then helping me in the paint. I just need to be more fundamental in my movements,” he said. “I feel like some shots have been taken out for me.”
Boston charged at halftime with a 23-8 run to open an 82-69 lead, sparked by Smart’s dead-eye shot from beyond the arc.
The Celtics also appeared to tweak their approach to keeping Durant in the half court, facing him and sending help over the top to limit his driving ability.
Durant and Irving always found ways to score, but they had to expend increased energy to succeed on their attempts.
It didn’t last.
With Boston leading early in the fourth, Irving put Brooklyn back in the game with two straight 3-pointers and a layup to cut Boston’s lead to 98-97. Then, after an empty trip through Boston that saw Brown and Horford fail to convert from close range, Durant calmly drained a 3 on the other end.
Brooklyn had increased its lead to 107-102 when Durant was long with a jumper. Brown found space on the Celtics’ next possession and connected on a 3 from the wing. The Nets returned it on an offensive foul on Durant. Smart then slid under Irving on Boston’s insurance trip and tied him up.
The score was tied again at 109 with less than 2 minutes left when Durant got a friendly rebound off a jumper. Horford’s follow-up shot tied it again. But Irving was good at depth next time on the floor, giving the Nets a 114-111 cushion.
Brown33752441 then tied it coming out of a timeout with 38 seconds left.
On his last trip to face his former Boston teammates, Irving received the loudest taunts during pregame introductions and was booed every time he touched the ball the rest of the way.
Fans also looked down on Bruce Brown, who made headlines last week after suggesting Celtics big men Horford and Daniel Theis could be easy to attack inside without injured center Robert Williams III available to defend. the rim.
Horford played the first 12 minutes as if on a one-man mission to erase that notion.
Boston came in with the best defensive rating in the league since the All-Star break and applied early pressure on Durant. He attempted to establish himself at the position in the first quarter, but the Celtics attacked him with defenders from the back, stripping him three times.
Brooklyn finished with seven turnovers for the quarter, but that only translated into a 29-28 lead for Boston.
Horford was active throughout, going 3 for 4 from the field with 10 points, two rebounds and a steal.
Boston had to adjust early in the second quarter after Theis committed his third foul. But things stabilized when Drummond was called for his fourth foul with 4:58 left in the period.
The Celtics immediately went on a 9-2 run before the Nets recovered to tie the game at 61 at halftime.
“I stayed with him, took his shot and found a way to end the game,” Horford said. “At the end of the day, it’s just winning, no matter how it was.”
ESPN Stats & Information and Associated Press contributed to this report.