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Boston Barrage: Nets blown out by Celtics in Brooklyn for ninth-straight loss, 126-91

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Boston Celtics v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

In a week filled with trade deadline rumors and key injuries, the league’s worst slump rolls on.

The depleted Nets suffered another blowout loss, losing to the Celtics, 126-91, at Barclays Center Tuesday night. The defeat marks the ninth-straight loss for Brooklyn, dropping to 29-25 on the season and 12-14 at home.

“It’s not a case of worrying. It is what it is. There’s not much we can do with what we can control. That’s how we support these guys through this,” said Steve Nash on dropping in the Eastern Conference standings after the 126-91 loss to the Celtics Tuesday night. “They’ve done a great job of keeping their spirits up and a competitive spirit to go out there and continue to play, even if we’re on a losing streak and we’re losing by 20-30 points. They continue to compete.

“We can’t magically repair everyone’s injuries and have everyone back and have everyone go back to their natural roles and positions. That’s something we’ll have to continue to play through until the time comes. There’s no reason for us to get down and panic. We’re asking a lot out of these guys and we’re really proud of the way they’ve responded.”

Without any member of the “Big Three,” it was a game of who is going to step up for Brooklyn. Although the final scoreboard tells the story of the contest, there were some surprises ... starting with what the Nets depth can provide.

The Nets are down six of their key players — a group could easily make up a top NBA rotation. So, it was Brooklyn’s bench that had to buck up the lackluster showing by the starters. The bench combined for 70 of the Nets’ 91 total points, led by Jevon Carter. The 25-year-old combo guard, who was out of the rotation when the squad was healthy, delivered a season-high 21 points behind 7-of-13 shooting from 3-point range in 31 minutes.

Cam Thomas didn’t have his best shooting night (7-of-17 shooting from the field and 0-of-3 shooting from 3-point range) but scored 17 points, grabbed five boards and handed out three assists in 28 minutes. James Johnson tallied 17 points, three boards, five assists, one steal and a block in 24 minutes.

David Duke Jr., who is fresh off a stint of games with the Long Island Nets, had a good outing with 13 points on 5-of-13 shooting overall but 1-of-6 shooting from behind the arc. The two-way rookie dished three assists, grabbed two boards, dished two assists and had four steals in 28 minutes.

“For the rookies, all experience is good experience. They’re getting a lot of opportunity, and I think they are growing. This is a period where they’ll get a lot of opportunities to continue to push themselves and understand the NBA game even better, our system even better, and how we want to play,” said the Nets head coach on the opportunity for their four rookies in this losing skid stretch. “Those guys, they just got to attack it with everything they have. This is them trying to develop and take a jump. I’m not worried about the rookies. They’re playing their hearts out.”

The Nets started Patty Mills, Bruce Brown, DeAndre Bembry, Kessler Edwards and Blake Griffin. You knew it was going to be a tough night for Brooklyn, but it started off as one of the worst games in franchise history. The Celtics had their way throughout the first quarter, and it was very ugly for the Nets, who missed their first eight shots and quickly went down.

Boston commanded a 26-point lead on a 28-2 run, easily the worst run of Brooklyn’s season...

But Brooklyn answered the best it could. The Nets went on a 14-7 burst to finish the first quarter of play. At the end of the first, the Celtics led the Nets, 35-16.

“Frankly, that’s a really good starting five that’s playing really good basketball, playing against a reserve lineup. We’re asking them to match a high-high quality NBA team starting five. We’re asking a lot out of these guys,” said the Nets head coach on the Celtics commanding first quarter of play. “We’re putting these guys in really difficult positions.”

After a horrendous stretch of play with a good ending, the Nets continued to chip away in the second. Brooklyn got good minutes out of Duke Jr. and Carter, who played vital roles in the 14-7 run to end the first. Carter hit a series of 3-pointers while Duke Jr. provided strong 3-and-D play with hustle to keep the ship floating.

The short boost of hope was stripped midway through the second. The Celtics' cold shooting stretch vanished while the Nets struggled to finish the first half with another fiery burst. Brooklyn concluded the first half with a combined shooting of 19-of-50 from the field mixed in with 10 turnovers — 18 points for the Celtics. At the half, Boston led Brooklyn, 69-43.

While Boston had four players in double-figures at the break — Jaylen Brown (18 points), Jayson Tatum (12 points), Marcus Smart (11 points), and Robert Williams III (10 points), Brooklyn had only two, and both came off the bench — Carter (12 points) and Johnson (10 points).

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

The second half was no different. Throughout the third quarter, the Celtics hovered over a 30-point lead and responded to nearly every Brooklyn bucket on the other end of the floor. In addition, the Nets couldn’t find their way to the charity strike to spark a consistent offensive groove to build hope of climbing the large mountain. The team shot only four total free throws through three quarters of play. At the end of the third, Boston led by 26 points (97-71). The fourth quarter was no different. The final score: 126-91.

“We appreciate their effort. We’re undermanned and we asked them to go out there, trap, blitz, run around and do things we haven’t done a ton of to mix it up,” We felt down 28-2, and we didn’t drop our heads and kept playing. We’re just proud of the guys for staying with it, staying together, and just keep trying to play the right way. I think two minutes left, we forced a shot-clock violation. These guys are giving us everything they can.”

How bad was it?

The game was broadcast on both YES Network and TNT, but as the game got out of hand, TNT pleaded “technical difficulties” and switched to a tight Suns-76ers game in progress.

As WFAN reported...

[W]ith about three minutes left in the third quarter TNT suddenly lost its feed of the game from Barclays Center.

This allowed the broadcast to do a live look-in to the Philadelphia 76ers-Phoenix Suns game, which was much closer and fans were clamoring for the network to flex it in when it became clear the Nets would be without their stars.

TNT occasionally cut back to the studio and even went to some other games, but the main focus remained on the 76ers-Suns, which Phoenix pulled out with a 114-109 victory...

When it became evident that the Suns were going to win, TNT suddenly got the feed back for the fourth quarter of the Nets-Celtics.

Not everyone was certain the “technical difficulties” weren’t timed.

We’ll never know.

Jevon Carter out of his slump?

Jevon Carter had his best game as a Nets ... by far. His seven threes were one shy of his career high. Carter, of course, has had a tough time in Brooklyn since he was traded along the draft rights to Day’Ron Sharpe for Landry Shamet. After shooting better than 40 percent from deep in his two years in Phoenix, Carter went into a slump and was relegated to the far end of then.

Quietly, though, he’s started to put the ball in the hoop. Over the past four games, he’s shot 13-of-24 or 54.2 percent.

“It’s the NBA,” Carter said. “I mean it’s a lot of people out there wishing and hoping they was in my position. You know what I mean? I can only control what I can control. Whether coach (is) gonna play me, not play me, whatever it is, I just got to come up and show up to work and be ready to get out there.”

Steve Nash held out some hope that Carter could have a larger role when everyone gets healthy.

“He’s a very capable shooter. I’m glad he was aggressive tonight,” said Nash on Carter’s performance. “I’m looking at to just score and shoot the ball, and if he gets the opportunities to play when we’re at full health, we want him to be aggressive as well.”

The Film Room

Wait, does anyone actually want to rewatch any film from this one? No? Okay, cool.

Milestone Watch

Cam Thomas scored 17 points vs. the Celtics, short of the 20-point threshold he’s reached six times in 2021. That’s more 20-point games than either No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham of the Pistons and No. 8 pick Franz Wagner, both who had four who’ve had in the same timeframe. Prior to Tuesday, Thomas had scored 50 points in his last two games. That’s the most a Nets rookie had scored over a two-game stretch since Keith Van Horn in 1998.

Thomas is now averaging 14.6 points over the last seven games, with shooting splits of 47/36/76.

James Harden on the bench

With trade rumors swirling and questions about his commitment being bandied about, James Harden was on the bench Tuesday night, dressed in a hoodie and mask...

Boston Celtics v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

Harden hadn’t been seen on the bench in the last two games he was ruled out vs. the Jazz and Nuggets. In the Jazz game, Harden was reportedly back in the locker room getting treatment.

“He didn’t really go through shootaround. He was here with his teammates,” Nash said. “He’s still doing strengthening, he’ll do core work, but taking the wheels off and exploding is still something he wants to cover.

“When he shoots, he looks like James, but as far as changing ends and accelerating and all that stuff, he’s being conservative right now to continue to regain that strength. There’s a deficit right now, just to be safe and look long term there’s no point in us risking a big patch of the season to be back where he was last season for long stretches.”

A night of hilarious postgame quotes

Something was in the air at the Barclays Center on Tuesday night. In spite of the 35-point beatdown, these Nets were really feeling themselves. Hilarious one-liners began flying. There was a sense of confidence from the selected Nets during the postgame pressers. It started with Jevon Carter, who after 7 made threes was asked if he could feel his hot streak from deep was coming. As a reminder, Carter is shooting 31% from deep this season. He responded with...

“Yeah, it feel like that every day for me. That’s how I work.”

Later, James Johnson was asked a series of questions about maintaining the morale in the locker room during the 9-game losing streak. Johnson, 34, has assuredly learned some things about how to stay afloat amidst murky waters. He didn’t disappoint.

“Stay together, keep talking through it,” Johnson said when asked about his message to his teammates. “Tough times don’t last, tough people do.”

Oh, but he wasn’t finished. Johnson was also asked if he’s given any of his young teammates any advice on how best to tune out the news amid trade season. The veteran forward has been traded 3 separate times in his career, even as recently as last season from Dallas to New Orleans. His response was *chefs kiss* exceptional.

“It’s exactly what it is. The outside noise is not with us,” said Johnson. “They’re not in this locker room. They didn’t run no suicides with you. They didn’t do they do anything like that.”

Tough times don’t last, tough people do.

It feel like that every day for me.

They didn’t run no suicides with you.

An all-time night for memorable one-liners. Someone better put these quotes on a postcard.

International intrigue

Nets governor Joe Tsai was on hand at Barclays Center, sitting in his courtside seats. No indication of whether he and Boston’s Enes Freedom (nee Kanter) had any communications. Freedom is an outspoken critic of Chinese treatment of minorities in Tibet and Xinyang. In November, Freedom attacked Tsai on Twitter, calling him “a coward and puppet of the Chinese government” and “spineless.”

As Sponge Bog might say...

What’s next

Miami Heat v Washington Wizards Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

The Nets will travel to the nation’s capital to face the Wizards on Thursday, February 10th. The game is slated to tip at 7:30 p.m. ET.

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