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Nets fail to hit the big shot late, lose to Boston 87-85

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Boston Celtics v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — The narrative entering this one centered around Boston’s schedule, entering Saturday on the second night of a back-to-back along with playing their third game in the last four nights.

But, as we say in Brooklyn (or anywhere else in the league): No excuses.

And so, Boston prevailed, despite the schedule and despite playing without Al Horford. They snapped Brooklyn’s streak of three wins in the last four games. Final: 87-85. The Celtics are now 33-10, the Nets 15-24 record on the season.

The Nets are now 10-1 when holding opponents below 100 points.

“We were looking for Rondae [Hollis-Jefferson] down the gut. Spencer [Dinwiddie] going to the rim and Rondae down the gut, got the ball in the paint and thought we had a couple of shots at the rim. It didn’t go for us but I thought we got it at the rim and had some chances,” said Atkinson of the final possession.

Here’s how it looked...

The ending looked very familiar to last week. The Nets had the ball with 6.2 seconds left, down two. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson missed a tough mid-range jumper and then an open put-back.

Unlike the end, the beginning of the game looked much different than last week’s matchup.

Boston took them out of their game and tried forcing Brooklyn down low, which caused problems, but Brooklyn’s defense made up for it and allowed only 39 points in the first half – the least they’ve allowed in a first half this season.

But that’s how Boston wanted it to be, a slow-down game. Unless the Nets hit their three’s to compensate ... and they didn’t.

There were bright lights in the big city.

Jahlil Okafor made a legitimate impact in the fourth quarter, where he scored six of his 12 on the night. Almost every time he touched the ball, Boston’s defense would slide down and double, opening up the perimeter for the rest. In fact, the Nets ran their offense through Okafor for the first five minutes of the fourth and regained the lead at 73-71.

Okafor sat the rest of the way and the Nets went back to playing the perimeter. It wasn’t working. They finished the night 6-of-31 from deep and it ultimately killed them down the stretch, where they shot 1-of-7.

Jayson Tatum (14 points) put home a 3-pointer to put Boston up by four with 45.7 seconds left. The NetS answered with a bucket of their own, down two and then made a stop. They had ball, but failed to convert on several opportunities.

And to make matters worse, DeMarre Carroll had to be helped off the court. No word on the extent of his injury but the 31-year-old was clutching his right knee, surrounded by concerned teammates. He’ll undergo tests on Sunday.

The Nets shot 33 percent from the field and turned the ball over 16 times. On the bright side, they held Kyrie Irving to just an 8-of-22 shooting night, 37 percent overall. They even out-rebounded Boston by 11.

Spencer Dinwiddie led the way with 20 points in 37 minutes — 14 in the second half, but turned the ball over four times. Carroll and Joe Harris were all over the place with 10 points apiece, Harris setting a career-high 12 rebounds as well, for his first ever double-double.

It’s a game they shouldn’t have had on paper, but probably should’ve had considering the flow of the game and the circumstances. They’ll face Toronto on Monday.

“I told the guys after the game, I said we keep it there, we;re in a good way, we’ll win a lot more games than people think,” said Atkinson.

DINWIDDIE NOT PLEASED WITH OFFICIATING

Spencer Dinwiddie was not happy with the officiating after the game and he spoke on it. In the midst, Timofey Mozgov interrupted and said, “Save your money.”

“It’s funny you mention it being physical and not a lot of calls. It’s a tough loss for us it makes us 0-3 against the Celtics. Obviously we wanted to beat them and these are games we feel we should’ve won. It’s become a trend this year. As a leader of the team I can express our frustrations. We’re losing guys to whatever random contact, people are driving to the basket and getting knocked down – things of that nature. To see the same type of respect not reciprocated is very frustrating for us.

“The other thing that is very frustrating as well is we have these meetings, right, as teams or with PA about respect and so we want to treat everybody with respect because everybody is doing their jobs and they’re trying their best including us. We turn the ball over. Calls are missed, whatever it is. But when you approach somebody, and they shush you or they wave you off like you’re not a man or something of that nature, that’s also very frustrating.

“To already be in the position of feeling like you’re not getting the same respect, whether true or false, it is an opinion at the end of the day. It’s very subjective. That is an opinion. But to have that and not just in one case, but time after time. And like I said, to be shushed if you’re not a man. Those are the things that are really frustrating for guys on this team for sure. Especially games that are so hard fought that come down to the last second.”

Like Mozgov said, there could be be fines.

OKAFOR’S GAME

Post-game, Jahlil Okafor reacted to the game, saying the team played its heart out in a tough loss, but noted, “it was another step in the right direction for myself and the team.”

Okafor scored 12 points on 12 shots in 12 minutes. He hit five of those 12 shots, grabbed five rebounds and blocked two shots. It was his best line since he scored 22 points and grabbed four boards vs. the Warriors in March of last season.

BRAD STEVENS LIKES NETS PROGRESS

“We did a better job guarding Minnesota and Cleveland than we did Brooklyn with the way they spaced us and moved us,” the Celtics coach said. “This is a really good team. They play great at home. They’re tough. They play all the way through the horn.”

DINWIDDIE GUARANTEED SUNDAY

Dinwiddie’s contract is up Sunday. That’s the day all non- or partially guaranteed deals become fully guaranteed. Dinwiddie, in year two of a three-year deal, has received $250,000 of his $1.5 million deal for this year. Next year’s the same. He’s partially guaranteed again through the first week of January.

Outside several rookie deals, it’s the best deal in the NBA, period.

Next up for the Nets, the red-hot Toronto Raptors, Monday night, 7:30 p.m. at Barclays Center.

For a different perspective, head on over to CelticsBlog.