Celtics crush Nets, gain in playoff hunt

The Nets got blown out by the Boston Celtics 110-91 on Monday night at Barclays Center in an important game for the last playoff spot. It was a big night for the Celtics, as they increased their lead over the Nets to a game-and-a-half and they also passed the Charlotte Hornets to move into eighth place.

The Nets’ home record fell to an abysmal 12-20 (29-40 overall), and this was sadly what has become a typical night at Barclays Center. The team had little energy after the first quarter, the crowd was as lively as one at the library, and there were a good amount of people rooting for the Celtics, and their green gear was quite noticeable dotting the landscape.

The Nets opened this one with a 28-23 lead after the first, led by eight points each from Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young. The Celtics got a charge from their bench guys, Jonas Jerebko and Kelly Olynyk, in the second quarter, which they opened with a 7-0 lead. Boston opened up a five-point lead, 45-40, with 3:26 left on an Avery Bradley free throw and never looked back, taking a 54-49 lead into halftime.

The Celtics opened it up in the third, going on a 9-0 run capped by a Jae Crowder bank shot to open up a 14-point lead, 71-57, with 6:13 left in the frame. The Nets responded with a 13-4 run to cut Boston’s lead back to five, 75-70 at the 1:53 mark. The Celtics, who have blown a lot of games this season, got off the deck, with an 8-2 run capped by an Olynyk three that made it 83-72 with 31.3 seconds left. They took an 83-74 lead into the fourth.

The Celtics’ late charge in the third carried over into the fourth, and they went up 11, at 89-78, on an Evan Turner reverse layup with 9:59 left in the game. At this point,  Nets Head Coach Lionel Hollins pulled Brook Lopez, who had 31 points at that time in the game, for Mason  Plumlee, who had his now-typical 2 points, for defense. It had the opposite effect, as the Celtics ran everything down the lane against the slow Plumlee. Olynyk took advantage, scoring seven straight points, and getting a tip-in to make it 96-80 Boston with 8:18 left.

The closest the Nets got was nine, at 98-89, on a Joe Johnson running floater with 5:41 left. Boston was stuck on 98 until Crowder hit a free throw at the 4:31 mark, which broke a three-minute-and-one-second scoreless streak. That started a 5-0 run, capped by an Avery Bradley tip-in with 3:24 left that made it 103-89 Boston and that sealed the win.

Celtics Head Coach Brad Stevens said of tonight’s win, “I was just really pleased with how we responded to losing a tough one last night and then not playing great the first six minutes of this game. We responded, and the guys pulled for each other and it was galvanizing to see the ball go in for a couple of them. I thought the turning point in the game was when Phil Pressey came in and the pressure he put on the ball. Along with our other players, I thought it was our defense that was ratcheted up in that second, third, and fourth quarters. Every game is so unique, and this is a hard league. You have to play all the way through the game regardless of what the score is. It was great to go up 16. Brooklyn cut it to five, and we go back up 15. Bottom line is it doesn’t matter if you win by 16 or win by one. You just try to get the result  you want. I was encouraged by our play in responding.”

The Celtics had a very balanced scoring attack, led by Avery Bradley’s 20 points, Evan Turner with 19, Tyler Zeller and Kelly Olynyk with 18 apiece, Brandon Bass with 12, and Jonas Jerebko with 10.

Jae Crowder, who had 9 points, 5 rebounds, and an assist off the bench, said of Bosotn’s balanced offense, “We want to get back to the basics and play team ball and get the ball moving. Finally guys got it going, and we kept trying to get to the ball and make plays. We’re just trying to get back to the basics.”

Turner had a triple-double with 19 points (9-13 FG, 0-2 on threes), 12 assists, and 10 rebounds. Turner said of his triple-double, “The offense definitely started clicking. I’ve been able to earn minutes and play and I’ve been able to play in situations that I’ve been comfortable in and that’s been working well for me.”

On whether it’s something in the Boston offense that makes him prolific, Turner said, “I think that, along with playing with the ball in my hands, once again, I grew up playing with the ball in my hands and it’s been more advantageous for me and that’s why I got drafted do high; I was playing the situation. Once again, my teammates made a lot of shots and a lot of great plays and they made me look better.”

Stevens said of Turner’s recent play, “He knows how to play and every night he fills the box score anyways – maybe not to that level. He was really good with the ball tonight. He was making great decisions off of the pick and roll. He was aggressive from the start. He had a tough assignment in Joe Johnson to start the game. He did a pretty good job with him, although we had Jae Crowder on him the rest of the game after that. He’s a good player. We need everyone to play well, and he played well tonight.”

The Nets, by contrast, were led by Brook Lopez with 31 points on 12-for-19 from the field, with 4 rebounds. Thaddeus Young had 12 points, and only 4 after the first quarter, on 5-for-12 shooting, 1-2 on threes, 9 rebounds, and an assist. Deron Williams had 10 points (2-6 FG, 0-2 on threes), with 10 assists, and 9 rebounds, coming within one rebound of a triple-double. Joe Johnson had another dreadful night shooting, as he was 3-for-11 overall, 0-4 on threes, with just 6 points, 3 rebounds, and an assist.

Lopez said of the loss, “Yeah, it was tough. You know, I think it just came down to us not knocking shots down – and they did. I thought we shot ourselves in the foot early in the second half. They took three pretty quick ones, and their lead extended, but we’ve got pretty much the same situation coming up in Charlotte, so we can do it over again.”

On what happened to the Nets defensively, allowing Boston to shoot 51 percent form the field, Lopez said, “They read us well and took away whatever we didn’t take away.”

Johnson said of struggling with the pick-and-roll defense, “It just depends on the team. I think you’ve got to give Boston a lot of credit. The big guys that they have were just flat out shooting and they shot the ball well tonight form the three, so it was tough for us tonight.”

Johnson said of having trouble keeping the energy up after the first quarter, “Obviously it was tough tonight. We have no excuses. You’ve got to give Boston some credit. They played great. They were well prepared and they were the better team tonight.”

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