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Harden fires as ‘Big Three’ lead Nets past Celtics



James Harden of the Brooklyn Nets high-fives teammate Bruce Brown during the game against the Boston Celtics in Round 1, Game 5 of the 2021 NBA Playoffs at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. (AFP)

James Harden erupted for a 34-point triple-double as the Brooklyn Nets wrapped up their NBA Eastern Conference playoff series over the Boston Celtics with a 123-109 victory on Tuesday.

Harden added 10 rebounds and 10 assists while Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant also weighed in with big contributions as the Nets completed a 4-1 victory in the best-of-seven series.

Second seeds Brooklyn will now face the third-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the conference semi-finals.

On Tuesday’s evidence at the Barclays Center, Brooklyn will head into the semi-finals brimming with confidence after signs that their big three of Harden, Irving and Durant are starting to click just at the right time.

While Harden led the scoring for Brooklyn, both Irving and Durant came up big as the Nets accelerated away in the fourth quarter after the Celtics had pulled to within seven points at the end of the third period.

Irving finished with 25 points while Durant added 24 points as Brooklyn piled on 37 points in a fourth quarter scoring blitz.

“We’ve dealt with so much adversity through the regular season, it felt good to get some meaningful games in,” Harden said. “It’s time to lock in now.”

“They’re a tough Boston team. They were down a few players. But they kept fighting and fighting and made it tough for us.

“We’re a special group, especially when we lock in defensively. If we can get three or four stops in a row — we can get it going offensively because we’ve got that much firepower.”

Boston’s scorers were led by Jayson Tatum, who despite being clearly short of full fitness finished with 32 points. French international Evan Fournier finished with 18 points while Romeo Langford added 17.