James Harden Says Nets' Game 3 Loss to Celtics Was 'Probably Good for Us'

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVMay 29, 2021

BOSTON, MA - MAY 28: James Harden #13 of the Brooklyn Nets looks on against the Brooklyn Nets during Round 1, Game 3 of the 2021 NBA Playoffs on May 28, 2021 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE  (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Brooklyn Nets star James Harden is hopeful a 125-119 loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 3 of the teams' first-round playoff series Friday night will have a positive impact.

"As much as we don't want to lose, this is probably good for us," Harden told reporters after the Nets' series lead was trimmed to 2-1.

The biggest question the Nets faced after acquiring Harden from the Houston Rockets in a January blockbuster trade was whether their defense was good enough to win a title. More specifically, could they come up with critical stops in the second half of close games in the postseason?

While they'd made some off-and-on progress during the second half of the regular season, they're shortcomings at that end of the floor were on display Friday as the Celtics shot 50.6 percent from the field, knocked down 16 threes and scored 64 points after halftime to secure the win.

"They shoot 50 percent from the field—we can't allow that," Nets forward Kevin Durant said. "Forty-one [percent] from the three? We can't allow that. And get outrebounded? Just got to be better."

Jayson Tatum led the charge for Boston by hitting 16 of his 30 shots from the field en route to 50 points. He also tallied seven assists, six rebounds, two steals and a block in 41 minutes.

"We know what he's capable of," Nets head coach Steve Nash said. "We did a good job at home, but that's a job that's gonna take a lot of resilience and continue to be there to guard him and to make it difficult for him as a group. Put different people on him, be able to support those who need support and be able to lock him up when we have guys that can guard him."

Brooklyn is going to score. It ranked second in the NBA at 118.6 points per game during the regular season, and the team has averaged 117.7 points through the first three games against the Celtics.

That's no surprise given an offense spearheaded by Harden, Durant and Kyrie Irving. Even the league's best defenses will struggle to contain that trio.

Harden's comments about the loss being a good thing are likely focused on the defensive end because Game 3 showed they can have a nice game offensively, highlighted by making 16 threes at a 42.1 percent clip, and still come up short.

They'll look to get back on track defensively in Game 4, which is set for Sunday at 7 p.m. ET on TNT.