Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (C) made just one shot in the fourth quarter, but it was a buzzer-beating layup to beat the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday in Boston. Photo by C.J. Gunther/EPA-EFE
April 18 (UPI) -- Jayson Tatum sank a layup off the glass at the final buzzer to lead the Boston Celtics to a dramatic victory over the Brooklyn Nets in Game 1 of their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series.
Tatum totaled a team-high 31 points in the 115-114 win Sunday at TD Garden in Boston. Nets guard Kyrie Irving scored a game-high 39 points in the loss.
"We've just been playing the right way the last couple months," Tatum told reporters. "That's the reason we've been so successful, especially in big moments.
"It's all about trying to make the right play."
The Celtics trailed 114-113 when center Al Horford collected a defensive rebound to start the final possession. Derrick White caught the next pass and sent another feed to fellow Celtics guard Jaylen Brown on the right flank.
Brown dribbled deep into the right corner, made a sharp left turn and drove the baseline toward the hoop. He then passed out to guard Marcus Smart on the left elbow. The ball movement distracted Nets defenders, allowing Tatum to make a backdoor cut behind forward Kevin Durant.
Tatum ran through the lane, caught a pass in the paint, did a spin move around Irving and used his right hand to bounce a shot off the backboard and through the net as the final buzzer sounded. The shot was his only made field goal of the quarter.
"We just kinda made eye contact and he made a great pass," Tatum said of Smart. "I just had to make a layup."
The game featured 19 lead changes and was tied a dozen times. The Celtics outscored the Nets 56-32 in the paint and 21-17 off fast breaks. They also led by as many as 15 points and out-rebounded the Nets 43-29. The Nets outscored the Celtics 30-17 off the bench.
The first quarter featured seven lead changes, but the Celtics took a 29-28 edge into the second. Horford scored 10 points in the first 12 minutes.
The Celtics held onto that advantage until midway through the second quarter, when the lead changed hands several more times. The Celtics then jumped out to a six-point edge, but the Nets responded with a 9-2 run to take back the lead.
The score was tied 61-61 at halftime. Irving and Tatum scored 11 points apiece in the second.
The Celtics started the third with an 11-2 run. They added another 10-2 run later in the quarter to push their lead to 15 and carried a 96-85 advantage in the fourth. Tatum and Smart each scored 11 points in the third.
The Nets responded by outscoring the Celtics 29-19 down the stretch. Irving scored 18 over the final 12 minutes. The Nets started the final quarter with a 17-2 run for a five-point lead with 6:31 remaining. The Celtics went on to tie the game three times before Irving hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 45.9 seconds remaining.
Brown scored a layup on the next possession to cut the deficit to 114-113. Durant followed with a missed 3-pointer, which Horford rebounded to spark the final drive.
Horford totaled 20 points and 15 rebounds for the Celtics. Brown totaled 23 points. Smart chipped in 20 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
Irving made six 3-pointers as part of his 39-point performance. Durant scored 23 points in the loss. Goran Dragic and Nic Claxton scored 14 and 13 points, respectively, off the Nets bench.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven game series tips off at 7 p.m. EDT Wednesday at TD Garden.