Celtics fans got loud and rowdy up 21 points in the third quarter. They were chanting, “WHERE IS KYRIE?!” as it looked like the Nets were en route to a fifth straight loss — eighth straight in Boston.
And then, as if the soul of Kyrie Irving vengefully merged with Caris LeVert’s, the Nets began a charge. For LeVert, who had 14 points at the end of the third, it was, as Kevin Durant later called it, a masterpiece the rest of the way. At the end, after four quarters, an overtime and a string of dropped jaws from Brooklyn to Boston, the Nets beat the Celtics and LeVert finished with 51 points, 37 of them in the fourth quarter and OT. No NBA player in the last 20 years had ever done that.
Propelled perhaps by the chants, LeVert got it going in the fourth quarter, draining 3-pointer after 3-pointer, bringing the Nets within two points in the final two minutes, his 34th point of the night.
But he wasn’t done just yet.
The Celtics did everything they could to escape with the win. They went back up by six points with less than one minute remaining. Brooklyn’s two-way, Chris Chiozza, hit a step-back midranger to bring the Nets within three.
The Nets came up with a stop and the ball was in LeVert’s hands at the free throw line. He made the first, missed the second and the ball was tapped out and back into the hands of LeVert. He missed a potential game-tying three-pointer and Daniel Theis gave the Celtics a five-point lead with 10 seconds left.
LeVert drove and hit DeAndre Jordan for a slam. Three-point deficit. With less than three seconds remaining, the Nets trapped Kemba Walker as soon as he got the ball and Rodions Kurucs got his hands on the ball, ultimately winning the jump with 1.7 seconds left.
The game was in the hands of LeVert, who got fouled on a 3-point territory. He sunk all three with 0.2 seconds on the clock, sending this game to overtime at 118 apiece and 40 points to his name.
And yet, he STILL wasn’t done.
LeVert went on an 11-2 run by himself in the overtime period. It started with a six-footer, then a 15-foot pull-up. Finally, he capped it off with two buckets within 10 feet, giving the Nets an eight-point lead with 2:40 remaining.
Finally, the 25-year-old sealed the deal at the line with three more free throws, notching 51 points. He willed Brooklyn to a win that snapped a five-game losing streak and eight-game losing streak in Boston, 129-120.
For Kenny Atkinson, it was a mix-and-match, go-with-your gut win. Late in the game, he relied not just on LeVert but Brooklyn’s two-way, Chris Chiozza, a 5’11” pure point guard who prior to Tuesday had played 19 minutes in four games. Known as “Flash,” Chiozza brought much-needed energy and made all the right plays, feeding an unconscious LeVert.
—The last five players to score 50+ points versus Boston is a heady group: LeVert, Devin Booker in 2017, Hakeem Olajuwon in 1996, Patrick Ewing in 1990 and Michael Jordan in 1988.
—Brooklyn scored 51 points in the fourth quarter, the most they’ve ever scored in a quarter in franchise history.
—LeVert’s 37 points in the fourth quarter and overtime beat the previous record of 34, by Latrell Sprewell with the Knicks. After that, only two players scored more than 30: Trae Young last year and Kobe Bryant in 2007.
—The 51 points are a Nets franchise record for points scored in Boston and the second-most points a Net has ever tallied against the Celtics. The high? 52 points for Mike Newlin on 12/16/79 in New Jersey.
And for the moment, here’s a good video of LeVert’s monster mash ... called appropriately enough by Ian Eagle.
LeVert's career-high 50 fuels Nets' remarkable comeback vs. Celtics https://t.co/PnLsJvBktE— NetsDaily (@NetsDaily) March 4, 2020
THANK YOU, CHRIS CHIOZZA
“We were playing abysmal. We needed to do something different,” said Atkinson, in discussing why he turned to Chris Chiozza.
A pure point guard out of Florida, Chiozza admitted he was surprised at getting the call. After all, he had played a total of 19 minutes in four games before Tuesday night.
“I was a little shocked actually, but I was ready. That’s my mindset is to try to stay ready because you never know what’s going to happen,” he said.
And did he have specific instructions from Atkinson?
“Nothing. He just knows I’m going to come out there and be a true point guard and lead my team and play hard. That’s what I did. I was prepared and just played my game. These guys trusted me and gave me the ball to make plays.”
Later, as LeVert went thermonuclear, Chiozza had simple instructions for him.
“Let me bring the ball up, and you’ve got to score,” Chiozza told LeVert. “When you get to your spot, you just put your hands up, and I’ll get you the ball.”
And he did. He played 21 minutes, scored eight points, handed out four assists, grabbed three rebounds and stole the ball twice. He also hit two 3-pointers.
LeVert also had praise for his teammate.
“Yeah he’s so confident. He puts in a lot of work behind the scenes, along with the rest of that group too, Rodi, TLC all of those guys man, they work their butts off every single morning. Theo too, you didn’t see him tonight, but he does as well. But Chris was huge, pushing the pace, playing great defense, he knocked down a huge step-back 3. So all of those guys were huge tonight.”
“WHERE IS KYRIE?”
Kyrie Irving underwent successful surgery earlier Tuesday, and Kevin Durant is out for the year. But Caris LeVert just dropped 51 in a win. Everybody knows what’s coming next year, but it’s worth noting the small victories Brooklyn gets... now.
Brooklyn trailed by 17 entering the fourth, but they didn’t quit. They rarely do. It matters for their identity, culture, development, etc.
Speaking of development, Chiozza came into the game for Spencer Dinwiddie and turned things around. He finished with eight points and four assists in 21 minutes. And how about Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, who finished with 16 points and eight rebounds off the bench.
And as noted earlier, to cap off a poetic night, there was this...
That 50 was beautiful, Vert. Thank you for that masterpiece— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) March 4, 2020
“‘Just be ready. Be ready for that moment.’ We don’t get a lot of TV games or anything like that, but he just said, when we do, ‘make sure you’re ready for it; make sure you’re ready to play your best when the spotlight is on you.’”
IT ISN’T ABOUT THE KNICKS, IT’S ABOUT THE NETS
Kevin Durant’s manager, Rich Kleiman, spoke to Sports Illustrated and touched on several topics relating to his client. We found this quote particularly interesting, and something Kleiman has reiterated time and time again: This isn't about the Knicks. It’s about the Nets and what they built.
This is a point Rich Kleiman has been trying to make since KD made the decision to go to Brooklyn. Knicks narrative is unnecessary. KD joining Nets is more a compliment to what Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson built.— Anthony Puccio (@APOOCH) March 3, 2020
‘20-21 is going to be a whole lot of fun. pic.twitter.com/O3JuGlSe0p
KICK THE KNICKS RIGHT WHERE IT HURTS.... RIGHT IN THE NETS
We aren’t here to get mixed up in the Knicks nonsense. However, this whole Spike Lee thing has people talking about him showing up at Nets games in his hometown borough. His office resides four blocks away from Barclays Center. Sopan Deb of the New York Times tweeted how the Nets reached out to Spike.
OMG: "I'll tell you one thing. I heard from the Brooklyn Nets." Lee says he gave away his tickets for this year already. (He's not changing allegiances though.)— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) March 3, 2020
We were told that the Nets have indeed reached out to Spike in the past... but nothing since the incident for whatever it’s worth. DO THE RIGHT THING, SPIKE!
BRAD STEVENS PREGAME CHAT ON NETS
Brad Stevens with high praise for the Nets entering tonight’s matchup...— Anthony Puccio (@APOOCH) March 3, 2020
“They’re really hard to play against.”
Nets haven’t won in Boston since 2015-2016 (7 games). pic.twitter.com/O1AYvZzh11
“[LeVert’s] a heck of a player,” Stevens said. “He’s one of the young guards in the league that’s continuously risen and looks like he’s going to be a good player for a long time. The way he maneuvers, attacks on the pick-and-roll, can play off the ball, can shoot the ball, can play downhill and he’s big. Yeah, he’s good — really good.”
For a completely different perspective, head on over to CelticsBlog, our Celtics sister site on SB Nation.
Next up: Back home against the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday.
- Box Score: Brooklyn Nets 129, Boston Celtics 120 (OT) - NBA.com
- Recap: Brooklyn Nets 129, Boston Celtics 120 (Video) - NBA.com
- LEVERT DROPS 51 ON BOSTON (Video) - Brooklyn Nets
- Nets rally to stun Celtics in OT behind LeVert’s 51 points - AP
- Nets’ Caris LeVert goes on insane run to stun Celtics - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Kevin Durant-Stephen A. Smith feud reignited by Olympics rant - Justin Terranova - New York Post
- LeVert scores 51, leads Nets to OT win over Celtics - Greg Logan - Newsday
- ‘It’s one of those Hollywood movies’: Inside Caris LeVert’s historic rally - Alex Schiffer - The Athletic New York
- Caris LeVert just showed why the Nets don’t need another star - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News
- Kevin Durant’s agent Rich Kleiman loves the Knicks’ Leon Rose hire - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News
- Putting Statistical Context In Caris LeVert’s 51-Point Masterpiece Against The Celtics - Larry Fleisher - Forbes Sports Money
- Caris LeVert scores career-high 51 points, leads Nets to 129-120 comeback win over Celtics - Coby Green - SNY
- NETS 129, CELTICS 120: CARIS LEVERT SCORES 51 TO LEAD BROOKLYN COMEBACK - Tom Dowd - Brooklyn Nets
- GALLERY: NETS VS. CELTICS - Brooklyn Nets
- Celtics fall to Brooklyn in overtime, 129-120 - Steve Bulpett - Boston Herald