The Boston Celtics came into Barclays Center and stunned the Nets with an 89-81 win on Wednesday night. The Nets are now 16-19 and it is their third straight loss since they hit the .500 mark last Friday.
The Nets started out this one strong, taking a 10-2 lead in the opening minutes capped by a Mason Plumlee dunk. The Nets maintained a big lead throughout the first, taking a 21-11 lead on a Brook Lopez layup with 2:28 left. The Celtics finished the first strong and only trailed by 25-19 at the end of the frame.
The second quarter was a different story, and it started poorly for the Nets as Deron Williams had to leave the game when he aggravated the left-side injury he suffered Sunday in Miami. Williams never returned and the team did not give an update on his condition after the game. The Nets held a seven-point lead, at 39-32, on Kevin Garnett free throws with 3:08 left. the Celtics closed the third on an 8-0 run, with Tyler Zeller pitching in four points and Evan Turner getting a layup to close the quarter on a feed from Jeff Green, who got a steal. Boston outscored the Nets 21-14 in the second and took a 40-39 lead into halftime.
The Nets came out well in the third and a Plumlee dunk tied it at 50 at the 8:18 mark. Boston responded with a 9-3 run capped by a Jeff Green dunk. The Celtics led by as many as 8 and took a 7-point lead, 69-62, into the fourth.
In the fourth, Boston was in complete command, as the Nets were in zero rhythm offensively, and with Alan Anderson, Mirza Teletovic and Mason Plumlee playing a bulk of the quarter, that was not much of a surprise. Boston led by as many as 14, at 82-68, on a Jae Crowder dunk with 6:03 left. The closest the Nets got (aside from the final score) was nine on two occasions, on a Joe Johnson jumper with 3:45 left that made it 83-74 Celtics, and another Johnson jumper with 1:45 left that made it 85-76. A Jeff Green dunk on the baseline on the next Celtics possession sealed the win, as they led 87-76 with 1:24 left.
The Nets were led by Johnson, who had 17 points, but shot a disappointing 7-for-16 from the field and 1-for-7 form behind the arc, with 3 assists and 3 rebounds. Mason Plumlee had 16 points on 5-for-11 shooting, and since all his shots are within five feet of the hoop, some of those misses were layups that cost the Nets in the end. For what it’s worth, Plumlee had 12 rebounds for another double-double, his seventh of the season, which leads the Nets. Jarrett Jack had 15 points (7-13 FG, 1-2 on threes), 4 assists and 4 rebounds. Kevin Garnett had 10 points and 8 rebounds, and Sergey Karasev had 5 points, 4 of which came in the first quarter, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists.
Nets Head Coach Lionel Hollins said of the tough loss, “Well, there are a couple of things. We shot 40 percent, 21 from three, 69 (percent) from the free throw line and turned the ball over 18 times. That’s the bad part. The good part is that we competed, and we held them to 39 percent (from the field), 27 percent (from long range). The energy was low. I was fearful of that going in. We just played a back-to-back, one of them was overtime (vs. Dallas on Monday). Joe (Johnson) played 40 and 45 minutes in back-to-backs. We also had Jarrett Jack had to play to 40 in the overtime game. I didn’t think that they could recover this quickly because we have been in a tough process of schedule wise. And it continues because we now go back to another back-to-back (vs. Philadelphia Friday, at Detroit Saturday). So it’s the NBA way, and with Deron getting hurt and being out one game, then getting hurt, it has put a lot of pressure on Jarrett to play a lot of minutes. It has put a lot of pressure on Joe to play a lot of minutes.
Hollins did take a long view as well after this one, saying, “I’m not making any excuses, but what I will say is we are playing much better. We’re not the same team that we were back when we started the season. We’ve made progress. We’re moving forward. I think our culture is better, I think our togetherness is better – all of that stuff – our defense is certainly better. We’ve just got to figure out a way to make some shots throughout the course of the game.”
Celtics Head Coach Brad Stevens said, “Even when we were down 10-2, I felt good about how we were playing. It may have looked like a slow start as far as the numbers went, we just missed layups. We probably missed seven or eight layups tonight but we just kind of grinded it out. Some of the effort baskets went our way – the Jae Crowder basket on the loose ball, the quick basket after an inbound – those things went our way instead of against us. Those things add up, and that was our chance to win. We’re learning. We can’t be a stagnant team. When you look out there, Mason Plumlee and Kevin Garnett are just so long. Joe Johnson is long, the wings are long. If you keep the ball on just one side of the floor and you don’t move bodies, you’re in trouble. One thing about this team is we’ve played some our best basketball playing from behind. We were down by 30 against Dallas and then had it down to 10 in six minutes. You just keep playing, keep figuring it out and grinding it out. We found a way.”
Joe Johnson said of the loss, “This is a tough one. You know, we had a day of rest, so obviously we wanted to come out and get out to a good start and try to put these guys away. We got off to a good start, but we couldn’t sustain for 48 minutes. We couldn’t score the basketball. We couldn’t get stops. It’s tough to beat a team that’s got a pretty good inside presence, guys who shoot the three and hit the post and rebounds. It was a little bit difficult, but we can take some good things away from it. Obviously, we didn’t get the win, so it’s disappointing.”