Brooklyn Nets superstar James Harden said he was caught a little off guard by the crowd noise during Game 1 of the team's first-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics on Saturday.
ESPN's Tim Bontemps noted the capacity inside Barclays Center, the Nets' home arena, was increased to 14,391 fans for the start of the postseason as COVID-19 restrictions begin to loosen. Brooklyn ultimately won 104-93 win after trailing by six at halftime.
"In that first half, shots just didn't go in," Harden said. "Maybe I'm speaking for myself, but the crowd kind of just threw me off a little bit. It was pretty loud in there. The vibe was what we've been missing, and it just threw me off a little bit. That second half, we got more comfortable, and shots started to fall when we needed it to."
Brooklyn came out a bit sluggish in front of the larger crowd, but that didn't come as a surprise given how little time the team's full rotation has played together since Harden was acquired from the Houston Rockets in a blockbuster January trade.
Between injuries and making sure players were rested for the playoffs, the Nets lineup has basically been a revolving door for the past couple of months with Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving all missing time.
Yet Brooklyn, which trailed by as much as 12 in the second quarter, eventually found its stride and outscored Boston by 11 in the third quarter to start taking control of the contest.
"I liked the way we fought," Harden said. "It just shows every game isn't gonna be perfect."
Durant paced the Nets with 32 points, and Irving chipped in 29. Harden tallied 21 points, nine rebounds, eight assists and four steals. Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 22 points.
Meanwhile, Brooklyn was able to earn the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference despite its inconsistent lineups, and that home-court advantage for at least the first two rounds of the playoffs could be more impactful than expected given the noise during Saturday's opener.
The over 14,000 fans in attendance for Game 1 is still a few thousand short of Barclays Center's full capacity for basketball (17,732), but New York has been steadily increasing the attendance percentage in recent months amid the worldwide COVID-19 vaccination efforts.
It wouldn't be a surprise to see the Nets ultimately play in front of a full house if they make a deep playoff run, but the Celtics showed Saturday they aren't going down without a fight.
Game 2 at Barclays Center is scheduled for Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. ET on TNT.