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HUGE! Nets come back from 28 points down, beat Celtics, 115-105, to end losing streak

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NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Boston Celtics Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

What a win!!!

Down 28 in the second, the Brooklyn Nets tied a franchise record with a huge comeback, beating the Boston Celtics, 115-105, at TD Garden, leaving Beantown fans in a daze and breaking the Nets four-game losing streak. The comeback was also the biggest comeback in the NBA this season and the worst comeback loss by a Boston opponent since the Clippers also rallied from 28 down to beat Boston four years ago.

It was also the most satisfying win of the season ... period. Not only was it the first signature win of the new-look Nets, it broke a 10-game losing streak to Boston including last season’s four-game sweep in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

How big was the turnaround? After the Nets went down 51-23, they outscored the Celtics, 92-54, a 38-point push propelled by Mikal Bridges who finished with 38 points, 10 boards and four assists. It was the second highest-scoring game of his career after setting a new career-high with 45 points in a win over the Miami Heat in his third game as a Net.

“We just kept fighting, man. We just kept fighting. We got stops, and that was the biggest thing,” Bridges said in his postgame interview. “We ain’t gonna stop fighting no matter what the score is. We were down big, but we’re just gonna fight.

“I think we kind or realized over a couple of games that offense wasn’t really our problem,” Bridges added. “I feel like our offense is pretty good. But our defense, we got stops and stayed together possession-by-possession. ... We just kept and stayed together.”

It looked like another Nets defensive disaster as the Nets gave up 37 points in the first quarter, going down 22. It was the thirteenth time in 17 quarters since the All-Star break that Brooklyn had given up 30 or more points. Then, in the second, things got even uglier and with 7:23 in the quarter, the Celtics climbed all the way up to a 28-point lead after a Jaylen Brown basket. At that point, Nets team pride took over and by the end of the quarter, the Nets had gotten the lead down to nine, 64-55.

“There was a point in the second quarter when we looked at each other and it was like ‘we’re not going out this way,” said Cam Johnson who was celebrating his 27th birthday Friday.

It was all Brooklyn ball after that. By 6:27 in the third, the Nets had tied the game, 70 all, on a Johnson 27-footer. Boston players and their fans seemed to believe that eventually, the Celtics would come alive ... but they never did.

Over and over, Bridges, Johnson, Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith kept pushing and by the fourth, the Nets went up by double digits and with 6:54 left. DFS delivered what turned out to be the dagger, a three from the top of the key with 2:23 left. From that point, they coasted, keeping the Celtics at bay. In fact, in the second half, they held Boston to 41 points.

“I try to keep it real simple with our guys and not complicate it,” Jacque Vaughn said. “The goal is every single night we’re trying to win the basketball game. That’s the goal [every] night and then we’ll handle whatever happens next.

“I haven’t addressed where we are in the standings with our guys, what’s a week from now, I really don’t want them even looking that far ahead. For us, our game plan is dedicated to [Boston] and trying to give what we have.”

Bridges, the player the Nets coveted in the Kevin Durant trade, justified their faith in him, shooting 13-of-22 for the game, including 4-of-6 from three as well as 8-of-9 from the stripe. He is now averaging 25.3 as a Net while putting up shooting splits of 53/45/94.

“I think when I got traded it was kind of at the right time because when everybody was out in Phoenix I had to take up another role offensively and be more aggressive,” Bridges said. “By the time I got traded I was in a great rhythm and was confident.”

Johnson, who had three personals in the first three minutes, still finished with 20 points without having a great shooting night (5-of-16). Dinwiddie, who marshaled the Nets’ offense in the second half, had perhaps his best game since returning to Brooklyn, with 17 points and eight assists. Finney-Smith certainly had his best game as a Net, finally breaking out of an uncharacteristic shooting slump. DFS shot 5-of-11 from deep on his way to a 17-point, nine-rebound, three-assist game. Prior to Friday, DFS had shot only 20.6% from beyond the arc.

Finney-Smith, who Vaughn used in several defensive roles, helped keep Jayson Tatum on a short leash. Tatum finished with 22 points, eight below his scoring average, shooting 10-of-23 overall and missing all eight of his threes, on his 25th birthday. Jaylen Brown led Boston with 35.

“They beat us in every analytical category possible,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said. “If we don’t commit to the margins, no matter how hard we play, we’re not going to win.”

In fact, the Nets came within one rebound of tying the Celtics, 48-47, and assists, 25-24, for the game.

The Celtics have now lost two out of their last three and lost more ground on East-leading Milwaukee, who was idle Friday. The Nets at 35-27 remain the sixth seed with 19 games to go. They lead the Heat by two and a half games — three in the loss column — after Miami lost to the Knicks who are in fifth, two games ahead of the Nets.

Vaughn summed things up as he sat down with the media post-game.

“Oh boy, how about that?” a smiling Vaughn said. “We figured it out as the game went on….. We’ve shown glimpses of what he can be tonight.”

Milestone Watch

  • The win matches the largest comeback victory in franchise history, previously done on March 16, 2022 at New York and March 19, 2019 at Sacramento. In both those games, the Nets won on late fourth quarter daggers. The Nets outscored the Celtics 100-68 across the final three quarters.
  • It was the biggest first quarter deficit overcome by the Nets in franchise history (22.)
  • Mikal Bridges has tallied 30+ points in three of his last six games, averaging 28.7 over that stretch. He scored 30+ points in two of the first 367 games of his career.
  • This is Dorian Finney-Smith’s third game with five or more 3-pointers this season and his first since December 6 with Dallas at Denver.
  • The Nets now lead the league in pace over the last five games.

Nets toast victory with a video

A day after the big win, the Nets posted a video with a behind-the-scenes look...

Another Ben Simmons update

There’s no timetable for the return of Ben Simmons, Jacque Vaughn said pre-game, adding that the 6’11” guard-forward is now experiencing back pain as well as knee soreness.

“Update on Ben, during his strengthening process, he did experience some back soreness. Now we are in the process of strengthening the knee while also managing the back,” Vaughn said. “I’m really day to day on what it looks like going forward because of the addition of back.”

So, are the Nets considering shutting him down for the season with 19 games left?

“I’ve had no conversation, zero, about any shutdown,” the head coach said.

Simmons has not played since February 15. He’s only played 100 games in the last three seasons.

As Sponge Bob might say...

What’s Next?

The Nets will return to Brooklyn Sunday for a game vs. the Hornets, beginning at 6:00 p.m. ET.

For a different perspective, head over to CelticsBlog, our sister site in Brooklyn. Be kind.