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NBA

The Celtics Chose Death By Joe Harris

Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Joe Harris finished this season leading the NBA with a career-best 47.5 three-point percentage. But if the Nets’ performance on Tuesday night is any indication, he probably hasn’t even seen his easiest looks of the year yet.

Though James Harden, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving played just 202 minutes together during the regular season as the latter two slid in and out of the hyperbaric chamber, the postseason will keep this sick glut of offensive talent on the floor together consistently. Harris, streaking to the corner possession after possession, will be the happy beneficiary of all that gravity. In the regular season, he shot 56.3 percent on three where the closest defender was at least six feet away, and averaged 2.2 such looks per game. There is room for that number to go up: He has attempted six such threes across the Nets’ two playoff games. Any possession that ends in a chasmically open Joe Harris long ball is an optimal one.

In a 130-108 Game 2 blowout of the Celtics, the Nets proved they can create a steady diet of total gimmes for Harris, in any number of ways. Surely the “There’s only one basketball!” critique of multiply ball-dominant super-teams is a passionless troll by now, but never has it looked stupider: The more holes a team can punch in a defense, or just threaten to punch into a defense, the better the shot it will eventually create.

Even the best-prepared defenses will fling help at the slightest intimation of a Kyrie isolation, KD elbow touch, or Harden rumbling into the pick and roll; they’re just too good. With so many ways to break down the front line, the Nets forced Boston’s defense into panicked closeout after panicked closeout, and passed as freely as any Steve Nash-coached team should, allowing Harris cleaner looks than a shooter that pure should ever get. Seriously, at some point, the Celtics were probably better off letting the superstar cook them. Harris blew open the game by scoring 16 points and making all four of his threes in the first quarter, after which the Nets led 40-26. He especially thrived in transition and semi-transition, where several Celtics would fixate on blocking the advance of whichever Big Three player happened to be pushing the ball up the floor, giving the bearded Washingtonian all the time he needed to get his feet set and signal for the rock.

A struggling Jayson Tatum ducked out early after getting poked in the eye, and the entire second half of the game was glorified garbage time. Durant finished with 26 points, Harden added 20, and Irving 15. “That’s the shooter’s dream, right there,” said Harris, who ended the game 7-of-10 from the arc, and a cool +29. Do we love a two-minute long, 25-point highlight reel, folks? There’s not a second of fat in here:

Harris was not surprised or offended to find himself that open that consistently. “I think it’s just sort of, this is the reality of the matter,” he said afterward. “I mean, we have three of the best offensive players that really have ever played.”