TODAY |

Sean Marks' Nets march to next round of NBA playoffs with series win over Celtics

James Harden had 34 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his first postseason triple-double with Brooklyn, leading the Nets into the Eastern Conference semifinals with a 123-109 victory over the Boston Celtics this afternoon in Game 5.

James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant react after a basket against the Boston Celtics. Source: Associated Press

Kyrie Irving scored 25 points and Kevin Durant had 24 for the Nets, who will face the Milwaukee Bucks in their first appearance in the second round since 2014. The No. 2-seeded Nets will host Game 1 this weekend.

After a series of front office moves this year by Kiwi executive Sean Marks brought them together, the Nets' three superstars showed how potent they can be in this series, particularly when they combined for 104 points in Game 4.

Brooklyn was nowhere near as potent as that game, when it rang up 141 points. But a little explosive stretch here and there was good enough to wrap it up.

The finishing one came with the Celtics trailing by just eight with under eight minutes to play. Durant then made a 3-pointer, Jayson Tatum turned it over and Irving nailed another 3 on the break, pushing it to 103-89 with 7:19 to play.

Evan Fournier scored but Harden answered with another 3 and Bruce Brown scored inside, an 11-2 burst in less than 90 seconds that broke it open at 108-91 midway through the fourth.

Tatum had 32 points and nine rebounds for the Celtics, who made the Eastern Conference finals last year but went quickly with Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker unavailable.

Fournier added 18 points and Romeo Langford had 17 starting in place of Walker, who missed his second straight game with a knee injury.

The Nets were eager to avoid a return to Boston after a fan threw a water bottle at Irving after Game 4, but the clincher didn't come easily.

The Celtics hung in the game, not letting the Nets build a double-digit lead until a 7-0 burst early in the second half made it 66-54. Boston recovered and trailed just 86-79 after Tatum made a jumper at the buzzer to end the third.