The Brooklyn Nets are officially 0-1 with Kevin Durant on the mend.
“One less guy to get open,” said Ben Simmons about playing without Durant. “When you’re without Kevin, who can score at will, it takes a lot of pressure off of everybody. Us collectively, we have to understand that and play a certain way with pace movement and play team basketball.”
The Nets fell short to the Boston Celtics, 109-98, in Brooklyn’s first game playing without their injured star, Durant. Brooklyn has now lost nine consecutive games against Boston dating back to last year’s regular season and playoffs. With the loss, Brooklyn has now fallen behind Boston by three games for the first seed in the Eastern Conference.
Both teams entered the contest fairly shorthanded. As mentioned, Brooklyn was without its MVP candidate, Kevin Durant, while Boston was without two of its starters, Al Horford and likely All-Star Jaylen Brown.
Kyrie Irving had another tough game against his former team, the Celtics, putting up a team-high 24 points on a poor 9-of-24 shooting night.
“I think overall we’re going to go to Ky, especially in the fourth because we know he can get a shot,” said Jacque Vaughn about Irving’s performance. “Marcus Smart’s a pretty good defender and they’ve got guys at the rim when Ky got to the rim. I think he had some looks that he, I’ve seen him make before so totally trust his ability to make shots for us but make the right decision at the end of the game also.”
Ben Simmons also had a very odd stat line—13 assists (a season-high) and 9 rebounds, very good, but 0 points on just three total field goals.
Ben Simmons after going scoreless on just 3 shots in tonight’s loss:— Erik Slater (@erikslater_) January 13, 2023
“I think I’m giving the ball up way too many times when I know who I am, I know I need to get to the rim and get buckets.“ pic.twitter.com/OdISzQvpVC
“I think giving the ball a few too many times,” said Simmons. “I know who I am. I know I need to get to the rim. I know I need to get buckets. That’s also going to help my teammates to get them going.”
T.J. Warren also was a nice spark off the bench with 20 points on 9-of-18 shooting, his second-highest scoring night of the season. Joe Harris also had a nice outing with 18 points, which represented a season-high.
The Celtics were led by a fairly balanced scoring effort, as six of their eight rotation players reached double figures.
The two main areas that have hurt the Nets this season, points in the paint and rebounding, came to bite Brooklyn on Thursday. Boston outscored Brooklyn in the painted area, 54-40, and outrebounded the Nets, 48-31. Though the Nets shot the three-ball well at 38.2%, their scoring elsewhere was not up to par, going just 14/35 (40%) in the midrange.
Things got off to a fairly even start between both of the depleted teams. Boston got some nice production from Jayson Tatum (7 points) and Grant Williams (also 7 points). Brooklyn, meanwhile, got solid contributions from Joe Harris with 10 points on a series of drives, as well as T.J. Warren, who pitched in 7 mostly self-created points of his own. A crucial point in the quarter came at the very end when Kyrie Irving sat; Ben Simmons created 5 unanswered points in transition off a hit-ahead pass to Yuta Watanabe and a diagonal pass to Joe Harris for three. Brooklyn finished ahead 31-29 after one period of play.
Brooklyn erupted on a 10-4 run to start the second quarter, but then Boston returned the favor with an 8-0 run as Tatum sat, a huge win for Boston. Ben Simmons continued to play with outstanding pace, generating 10 first-half assists, many of which came in transition. Royce O’Neale also had a nice quarter on the defensive end, stripping Malcolm Brogdon on a drive and then Grant Williams in transition. Things got fun at the end of the quarter when Irving and Tatum got into a little bit of a shootout. Tatum got busy with 7 points with a pair of finishes at the rim, and Irving hit a contested three over Robert Williams. The Celtics finished ahead, 60-57, at halftime.
Brooklyn started the third on a 10-6 run by pushing the pace off Boston’s misses to create transition opportunities. Though Boston closed the gap, Nic Claxton was absolutely monstrous defensively with 3 blocks in less than 8 minutes. His defensive effort alone caused the Celtics to think twice about venturing into the paint. In what was a fairly chippy quarter, Boston finished ahead by just 84-82.
Things started to unravel in the fourth. Boston scored a multitude of buckets at the rim thanks to weak point-of-attack defense, and Kyrie’s disappointing night continued. At just under the 10-minute mark, he turned over the ball against a double-team from the Celtics near midcourt, which immediately turned into two points for Boston. Vaughn was forced to call timeout after Boston went on an 8-2 run.
Boston grew that advantage to 10 points as the Nets’ offense stalled. Irving did his best to run the show as Brooklyn’s only creator late but fell short on a multitude of tough jumpers. In the end, the Celtics served up the Nets their second loss in the month of January.
“Give them credit,” said Vaughn about Boston’s fourth-quarter finish. “Their defense took a step up and we couldn’t produce on the offensive end of the floor.”
The Film Room
If there’s one thing that tonight’s game showed, it’s that Brooklyn’s margin of error without Durant has shrunk... significantly.
“We’ll need to do things better, whether that is rebounding the basketball better because Kevin can make a shot for us and cover up some of our sins. So the shot discrepancy can’t be the same. We can’t turn it over the same,” said Vaughn after Wednesday’s practice. “So all the things that increase or decrease your margins, we just got to be better at.”
Even against a shorthanded Boston team, the Nets' biggest structural issues were on full display because of that reduced margin. Creation outside of Kyrie Irving, for example, is going to swing many of Brooklyn’s games over the next few weeks.
Though the Nets got great production out of Simmons for the first three-quarters, his absence as a scorer was felt tenfold in the fourth. Boston’s blitz on Irving in the fourth that led to a transition bucket could very well be the play that swung the game. Brooklyn just didn’t have enough creation outside of Irving to close what would eventually be an unconquerable 10-point deficit.
Great defense leads to transition offense pic.twitter.com/FmpSpxfVfd— Boston Celtics (@celtics) January 13, 2023
Brooklyn was solid defensively, holding Boston to a 116 defensive rating. Still, Brooklyn’s flaws as a defense—which are few and far between—were attacked by Boston at key points in the game.
For example, when Brooklyn went small with Ben Simmons at center while Nic Claxton sat, Boston immediately attacked the Nets with lobs to their bigs, Luke Kornet and Robert Williams, against the smaller Nets backline.
Marcus swingin' the ball to everybody tonight ☄️ pic.twitter.com/nZjmfP8mrj— Boston Celtics (@celtics) January 13, 2023
The same can be said in possessions where Claxton was switched out to the perimeter. Here, Claxton gets stuck on Derrick White at the three-point line to begin. Seeing this, Marcus Smart attacks Joe Harris off the dribble and throws up a lob to Kornet for the bucket. Though Simmons is a tenacious defender on the perimeter and in help, his short wingspan (7’0”) limits how much he can block shots and deters lobs.
“Definitely puts more pressure on him, I think a few ways,” said Jacque Vaughn about Claxton’s defensive role in the coming weeks. “A lot of times with Kevin back there they would cover for each other whether Nic was guarding the perimeter, Kevin was still at the rim or vice versa. I think schematically we’ll do some things to help Nic be closer to the rim at times but he’ll still guard some perimeter players.”
This, among many things, will be a big test for the Nets going forward. Get well soon, KD!
- Nic Claxton (three blocks) has now blocked at least three shots in seven straight games.
-Longest streak of his career.
-Longest streak for a player this season.
-Longest streak for a Net since Shawn Bradley in March 1996 (franchise-record-tying 11 straight).
-He remains the NBA’s leading shot blocker at 2.6 blocks per game.
- T.J. Warren has recorded 20 points off the bench tonight, marking his second 20-point game of the season. Warren tallied a season-high 23 points on 12/26 at Cleveland. Warren is now averaging 10.5 points per game after missing two years to foot injuries ... 12.5 over the last five.
- Joe Harris tallied a season-high 18 points, shooting 7-of-11 and 4-of-7 from deep. That’s tjhe most threes Harris has hit in a game since December 2, when he hit five. In games where he’s played 25 or more minutes, Harris is shooting 47.1, equal to what he shot in his last three full seasons before getting hurt last season.
- And in not-quite a milestone, Ben Simmons recorded 13 assists — his Nets high; nine rebounds; and no points. As Chris Milholen noted, This is the 18th time an NBA player has had 0 points and at least 13 assists in the regular season. In fact, Jacque Vaughn is one of those 13 players: 13 assists and 0 points, April 18, 2006 when he was backing up Jason Kidd in New Jersey.
KD, Kyrie, Nic again among top All-Star vote getters
In the second round of fan voting for the All-Star Game next month, Kevin Durant is still the leading vote getter (although Giannis Antetokounmpo is closing the game) in the East. He is behind only LeBron James overall. Just as KD is the leader among Eastern Conference frontcourt players, Kyrie Irving remains the leading vote getter in the backcourt. And Nic Claxton remains in ninth place.
Lakers’ LeBron James and Nets’ Kevin Durant continue to lead in the NBA’s second fan voting returns for the All-Star Game: pic.twitter.com/naVKXu2xot— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) January 12, 2023
The three have more fan votes than any of the Knicks starters, although Derrick Rose has slightly more votes than Claxton.
Kyrie Instagram account suspended
Sometime Thursday, Kyrie Irving’s Instagram account — one of the most popular in the NBA with 18.5 million followers — was suspended. Irving responded using another IG account, posting this...
Irving said he does not know why the account was suspended, telling his followers: “Tribe my tribe: Make sure y’all are paying attention to everything that’s going on. Stand Firm no matter what,”
Irving, of course, was embroiled in a controversy earlier in the season, but he apologized for his publicizing an anti-semitic video and accepted a suspension. No indication if the suspension is fallout from that. He has 30 days to appeal.
The Nets stay in Brooklyn to host the Oklahoma City Thunder. Coverage begins at 6 PM EST on the YES Network.
For a different perspective on tonight’s game, head to CelticsBlog, our Celtics sister site.
- Box Score: Boston Celtics 109, Brooklyn Nets 98 - NBA
- Game Highlights: Boston Celtics 109, Brooklyn Nets 98 (Video) - NBA
- Highlights: Kyrie Irving vs. Celtics / 24 PTS (Video) - Brooklyn Nets
- Highlights: T.J. Warren vs. Celtics / 20 PTS (Video) - Brooklyn Nets
- Ben 10 Dimes (Video) - Brooklyn Nets
- Jacque Vaughn post-game vs. Celtics (Video) - Brooklyn Nets
- Ben Simmons post-game vs. Celtics (Video) - Brooklyn Nets
- Kyrie Irving post-game vs. Celtics (Video) - Brooklyn Nets
- Celtics pull away in 4th, beat Nets 109-98 for 5th straight - Brian Mahoney - AP
- Celtics win close game in Eastern showdown with Nets - Reuters
- Kevin Durant-less Nets battle but fade down stretch in loss to Celtics - Greg Joyce - New York Post
- Ben Simmons does everything but score in Nets’ loss - Greg Joyce - New York Post
- Nets miss Kevin Durant down stretch in loss to Celtics - Barbara Barker - Newsday
- With Kevin Durant sidelined, Joe Harris returns to starting lineup for Nets - Barbara Barker - Newsday
- Nets drop first game since losing Kevin Durant to a knee injury - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News
- Ben Simmons comes up scoreless vs. Celtics, vows to be more aggressive: ‘I know who I am’ - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News
- TNT’s Pointing Finger At Simmons For Nets Loss To Celtics Was Pointless - Steve Lichtenstein - Steve’s Newsletter
- Ben Simmons scoreless, Kyrie Irving struggles as Nets fall to Celtics without Kevin Durant - Alex Schiffer - The Athletic
- Ben Simmons records rare stat line in Nets’ loss to Celtics - Nick Friedell - ESPN
- Who does Stephen A. pick as NBA’s best: KD or Kyrie? (Video) - Stephen A. Smith - ESPN
- Nets takeaways from Thursday’s 109-98 loss to the Celtics, including Brooklyn running out of gas late - John Flanigan - SNY
- Malcolm Brogdon, Payton Pritchard step up to key run for shorthanded Celtics in win over the Nets - Adam Himmelsbach - Boston Globe