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Depleted Nets take another wire-to-wire Celtics romping on their home floor, 129-106

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Boston Celtics v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images

Reinforcements are on the horizon but it was another Celtics romping and stomping in Brooklyn Thursday night.

With a .500 record looming, Nets suffered another crushing defeat at the hands of the Celtics, 129-106, at Barclays Center before a sellout crowd of 17,986. With the defeat, Brooklyn falls to 31-29 on the season and 13-16 on their homecourt.

“Our message is staying together. Staying positive,” said Steve Nash on what Brooklyn needs to do to stay afloat. “I told the guys we had two great days of practice, and tonight I don’t think we got better. I don’t care about the result but I thought we could’ve played better. We could have made less mistakes and done a few things that would’ve made tonight more productive. That’s all it is.

“We recognize we’re shorthanded. We know we’re sending these guys out there asking them to do more than they’re accustomed to doing, and that’s tough. At the same time, they’ve responded every time we asked them to keep their spirits high and work. That was clearly on display in practice yesterday. Today, we needed a little bit more. We’ve built a lot of resolve over this difficult stretch. It’s just a matter of staying with it until we do get a little more size and talent back in the lineup.”

In a blowout loss that Brooklyn never led, Boston outclassed the depleted Brooklynites across the board. Steve Nash cited Boston as the “best defensive team in 2022” before the contest and the Celtics followed up that statement with commitment.

“I thought we made too many game-plan mistakes. More than anything, I thought to start of the second half, we lost a lot of 50-50 balls. We had a really good chance. We didn’t get 50-50 balls and we turned it over in the first three minutes of the second half where we probably had a chance to cut it to 10,” said Nash on what bothered him the most in the 129-106 loss to the Celtics Thursday night. “I’m not saying we were going to win the game but it would’ve given us an opportunity to gain a little momentum.”

Seth Curry led the Nets with a team-high 22 points on 10-of-19 shooting from the field and 2-of-7 shooting from 3-point range. The guard also grabbed seven boards, dished an assist, and recorded one steal as well in his 31 minutes of play.

Bruce Brown had a solid all-around performance, finishing with 15 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and three steals in a team-high 35 minutes. He also did a nice job early on Jayson Tatum. Andre Drummond tallied 11 points, six boards, one assist, a steal, and a block in 20 minutes.

“They started knocking down shots. Players we wanted to shoot the ball made shots. Marcus [Smart] hit five [3-Pointers], and that’s one player we wanted to shoot a lot of threes. We weren’t planning to go out and play 2-3 for the rest of the game,” Brown said. “That’s the tough part. Coach tried to make the adjustment and it just didn’t work tonight.”

The silver lining in another crushing defeat to the hands of the Celtics was Kessler Edwards. The two-way wing, who hit the rookie wall in the final games before the All-Star break, concluded with 12 points on a perfect 4-of-4 shooting overall and 3-of-3 shooting from behind the arc.

Jayson Tatum finished with a game-high 30 points to lead the Celtics seven players in double-figures.

The Nets opened with Curry, Brown, James Johnson, Andre Drummond and Patty Mills. The Celtics pushed the pace in the opening minutes resulting in the depleted Nets struggling to generate any offense. Boston targeted their offense down low, building an early 20-10 advantage midway through the first period.

The Celtics switching defense continued to lock down quality shooting opportunities for the Nets. Brooklyn couldn’t forge any consistent buckets offensively, preferring deep shooting Instead of attacking the rim off the dribble, . Boston’s hot shooting came alive late, but it was the efficiency (10-of-17 from the field and 5-of-10 from 3-point range) and fastbreak points (10 points)that hurt the Nets the most in the opening frame. At the end of the first, the Nets trailed 35-22.

Boston opened the floodgates to start the second, hitting all of their shots in the opening minutes to balloon their lead to 22 points. Brooklyn began to chip away at the big deficit by attacking down low off the dribble and with a series of drop-offs to their bigs, cutting it to 12 points with three minutes left in the second. At the break, the Celtics led the Nets, 67-52.

The Celtics came out of the locker room re-opening the floodgates. Boston picked apart Brooklyn’s zone defense while out-hustling the Nets, opening the third on a 12-6 burst to grow their lead up to 21 with 8:19 left. The out-hustling prolonged the Celtics’ run through the quarter which resulted in a series of threes off second-chance opportunities. After a quick 6-2 burst, the Celtics lead grew to 22 (91-69) with 3:23 left in the quarter. By the final buzzer of the frame, Boston led 98-74 and didn’t look back.

The Film Room

A quick glance at the stat sheet on ESPN (or whatever you prefer) will give you a pretty clear picture of how and why this game went the way it did. Or, newcomer Seth Curry can explain it to you himself. In short, many things contributed to Thursday’s disappointing outcome.

“I mean, they beat us in a lot of different areas,” said Curry. “That’s a good team that we just didn’t match what they were doing on both ends of the floor from the get-go.”

The Nets got absolutely trounced in three-point shooting for what feels like the umpteenth time this season. Boston netted 40.5% of their threes while Brooklyn made just 24.1%.

Points in the paint were also an area of weakness with Boston enjoying a +8 advantage in that category. Rebounds, too, proved to be more of an abstract concept than an actual way to win a game for the Nets, as Boston gobbled up 48 to Brooklyn’s 38.

But maybe the biggest discrepancy between both teams — and where this game was likely lost — was in transition. Boston turned the ball over (14) more times than the Nets (11), but was far more efficient at turning those goof-ups into points on the other end. The Celtics scored 23 fastbreak points while the Nets mustered just 7, a 16-point difference that greatly affected the final score.

Seriously, check out below how many of Brooklyn’s errant passes or bad shots led to points on the other end.

The hits keep coming...

And coming...

Oh my goodness, they never stop. (Also, what a finish from Jaylen Brown).

With the team at its shorthanded state, it’s imperative that the Nets take care of the ball as best they can. Opponents are well aware of how weakened the Nets are at the knees, ready to pounce at any opportunities that could lead to easy buckets.

“I mean, you show up every day and you try and make the best of it,” said Seth Curry about the challenges of playing shorthanded. “Every individual player gotta come into work every day not thinking of any excuses, just working to get themselves better and figure out what they need to do to help the team get better. And when guys come back, they come back. And I mean until then, we have what we have and we got to make the most of it.”

Big minutes

Nic Claxton got his first minutes and first points since February 4, scoring eight points in 11 minutes. Meanwhile, Andre Drummond scored 11 points and grabbed six boards in 20. LaMarcus Aldridge, coming off the bench, had nine and four in only 17 while Day’Ron Sharpe got six garbage minutes and scored six points. Sharpe, who’s started eight games, had played only 2:39 minutes in the last five games prior to the Celtics game.

What’s next

2022 NBA All-Star Game Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The Nets will be back in action on Saturday, February 26 when the team travels to Milwaukee to play the Bucks. The game is slated to tip at 7:30 p.m. ET.

For a different perspective on Thursday night’s game, check out CelticsBlog — our sister site covering the Celtics.