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Nets put up eight-minute fight, then bleed out for two more hours before dying, 139-96

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Brooklyn Nets v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

You win some, you lose some. And sometimes, I guess, a third option happens that makes fans question why they plan their time around watching their favorite sports teams. I imagine that mix of self-reflection and disappointment is what most Nets fans were feeling around 8:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday night. What time you want to mark Brooklyn’s official time-of-death as depends on when the reality of what you were watching fully set in.

Maybe it was at 13-4, after a nasty Jaylen Brown crossover/behind-the-back combination led to a 3-pointer and a Brooklyn time-out. Maybe you got a sense of what Wednesday’s contest, or lack thereof, was early on. Maybe it was a barrage of Boston treys and Brooklyn bricks later, at 27-4, that you realized that whatever false hope you had heading into this one, with the Nets missing their best player against the best team in the league, was just that: false. If you were really a staunch believer, then you might have held on until it got to 41-13. Kyrie Irving turned the ball over, the bloodlust-filled Celtics fans erupted with joy, and Boston called timeout. At least it was still early enough to find some other way to spend the night. That is, of course, unless you chose self-loathing, in which case you probably watched the final two hours of Brooklyn’s 139-96 demolition at the hands of the Boston Celtics.

“I told the group I’m disappointed in the fact that I did not have them ready to play,” said Jacque Vaughn, who took this loss squarely on the chin, fair or not. He later added “I take the blame of all of it...I’ve gotta do my part.”

Kyrie Irving confirmed that that was indeed Vaughn’s message to the group, but added “Obviously he can only control what he can control.”

Among what Vaughn can control, certainly not this abominable transition defense; providing the opponent a free lane to the basket probably wasn’t in the gameplan:

Vaughn, in a last-ditch effort to make it a semi-competitive ballgame, subbed his starting five back in for nearly the entire second quarter. It almost, kinda worked. The Celtics called timeout with the score at a non-historic 62-40 margin, with 5:19 left in the first half. From there? Boston closed on a 17-5 run, heading into the locker room up 79-45. The second half was a grave-dancing party for the Celtics and their fans, who might have been a little disappointed that their intense booing was useless before the end of the first quarter. (Those who stayed did drum up a quick “Kyrie sucks” chant at the final buzzer.)

And certainly, there were real structural questions to be asked about how Brooklyn can compete with the Celtics in general, not just tonight. What about the size difference, even with a potentially healthy Kevin Durant, Ben Simmons, and TJ Warren? Can Seth Curry survive against a team like this, where there’s nobody to hide him on on defense? Possibly, maybe, but a loss of this magnitude meant nobody was interested in talking specifics after the game. It was all one big stew of failure.

“I think it caught us off guard a little bit. Being on the road, they made shots; at the same time, we had some really good looks open early. And then that becomes a mental challenge,” said Vaughn. Ultimately, his last answer was the most truthful, the least dressed up: “This is part of the NBA sometimes. This was a night where they hit first, they hit hard, and it hurt. And we weren’t able to get off the mat like we needed to.”

Pretty much. We can sit here and admire how the Celtics often play five legit shoot-dribble-pass players together, or sub one of them out for a premier lob threat in Rob Williams. It makes their offense tough to guard when they’re not hitting threes from Cambridge, much less when the whole building’s on fire. We can discuss how the Nets are ill-prepared to defend Boston’s style of offense in particular, how repeated dribble-drives and quick passing makes Brooklyn’s daring switches too dangerous to execute, or how Nic Claxton’s rim protection won’t play as effectively vs. the Celtics, considering he’ll always be leaving either Al Horford open for three or Robert Williams open for a rebound:

But Wednesday night was not the time to talk about any of that. It was the time to mourn the fact that, including last year’s playoff sweep, Boston has now defeated Brooklyn in ten straight matchups, and the Nets don’t appear to be narrowing the gap in any significant way. Kyrie put it succinctly: “It’s clear as day that they want to win championship and they’re not wasting any time in the regular season. So tonight, I felt like we were just one of those teams in the way. And we just can’t be one of those teams in the way, we gotta be one of those teams that stands up to them.”

Beating them would be even better than simply standing up to them, of course, but one step at a time.

Numbers? Fine, here are some numbers.

  • The Celtics started 8-of-9 from deep; only three of those makes were assisted! The Nets started 2-of-12; I can’t tell you the quality of their looks was that much worse than Boston’s.
  • The Celtics ended up at 26-54 from deep; that’s a ridiculous 48% on over half-a-hundred attempts!
  • Per YES Network, Brooklyn’s 31-point first quarter deficit only matched a franchise record in futility. The New Jersey Nets trailed the Toronto Raptors by 31 points in the first on January 11, 1997.

That’s about it for numbers, and you best believe there’s going to be no milestone watch tonight. Vaughn’s postgame presser lasted less than five minutes, and brevity might be the only option here as well. There are only so many fun, morbid ways to say “the Nets got blown out,” before that, too, loses its luster.

One of the Boston guards threw a lob to Luke Kornet towards the end of the first half. Kornet reached back for it, the TD Garden crowd gasped in anticipation, and he threw it off the front of the rim. Dejected sighs. Yet, the Celtics were winning by so much, so handily, that they tried it again in the second half. This one was thrown even higher, and landed out of bounds.

There is no better indicator of how tonight went for the Brooklyn Nets - seemingly the only stops they got all night were on attempts lobs to Luke freaking Kornet, which Boston was content to try twice. Just because they could.

Nic Claxton tried to put a positive spin on things ... and look forward.

“Honestly, for me it’s just one of the games you flush out. If we play them 10 more times we don’t get beat by this much. We’ll see them again. You just take it on the chin. There’s nothing you can do about it. It happened. We got our ass kicked, just keep moving on.”

The Nets next play Boston on March 3, at TD Garden.

Not good, Bob

From ProfessorB, our analytics guy...

Net ratings versus Celtics this season (25+ minutes):

Sharpe -35.9

Thomas -33.8

Watanabe -30.5

Irving -27.0

Claxton -21.6

Durant -20.7

Curry -20.3

Harris -20.2

O’Neale -20.0

Warren -6.3

Simmons +19.8

Milestone Watch

None that I can think of.

KD update

Adrian Wojnarowski spoke pregame about Kevin Durant’s situation. He had talked earlier with Rich Kleiman, KD’s main guy. Not much different from what KD told The Etcs podcast with Eddie Gonzalez last week, but it’s a second source.

“I spoke with Kevin Durant’s business partner and manager, Rich Kleiman, tonight and he tells me KD remains hopeful that he can return and play on All-Star weekend. He certainly wants to be a part of All-Star, that’s February 19th. He likes the way his rehab is going, how he looks on the court, and most importantly, how he feels,” Woj said on NBA Countdown.

“I think for Kevin Durant to play and return and be a part of All-Star weekend, you would expect he probably need to play a game or two before the Nets’ All-Star break.”

For the record, the Nets play on February 11 (vs. Philadelphia at Barclays Center), February 13 (vs. New York at Madison Square Garden) and February 15 (vs. Miami at Barclays.) So no travel other than a bus trip to Manhattan.

KD will be re-evaluated early next week.

The peripatetic Mr. Eagle

Ian Eagle called the game which marked the fifth night in a row that he was sitting in a different arena or stadium.

—Saturday, NCAA Basketball, Cincinnati at Houston, CBS Sports

—Sunday, AFC championship, Kansas City, Westwood One Radio

—Monday, NBA, Nets vs. Lakers, Brooklyn, NY, YES Network

—Tuesday, NBA, Knicks vs. Lakers, New York, NY, TNT

—Wednesday, NBA, Nets vs. Celtics, Boston, YES Network

That’s five games, four, cities, four networks, three sports and two mediums. Take the day, Ian.

As SpongeBob might say...

What’s Next?

Other than reflection? The Nets come home to face the Wizards on Saturday at 6:00 p.m. ET.

Head to Celtics Blog to read more about this one from Boston’s perspective.