The Boston Celtics had their four game win streak snapped by the Brooklyn Nets, losing by a score of 121-109. It was always going to be a tough way to kick off the second half of the season, but the Celtics floundered in this one. Even without Kevin Durant, fellow stars James Harden and Kyrie Irving combined to drop 62 points, with Irving in particular putting up an impressive 40 point showing. Tatum led the way with 31 for the C’s, but struggled to get much support from his teammates.
The Celtics traded good quarters with bad quarters in this one. After some solid defensive intensity in the first quarter, the Celtics let Irving and Harden get whatever they wanted, which ended up turning a 6 point lead into a 3 point deficit at halftime. The Celtics came back out and had a solid showing for most of third quarter, only to let the Nets fight their way back into the lead as the game went back into the fourth. The Celtics fell behind by 10 in the fourth, and brought the game back to within 2, only to fall apart and watch Irving bury shot after shot to put them away.
The big concern is how the Celtics faltered in clutch time. The game was 113-109 after Jaylen Brown hit a corner three with just under three minutes left to go, and that would be the last time they scored in the game. The Celtics had sloppy defense and failed to create anything offensively, which is even more concerning because the Celtics had their desired five players on the court. With Smart back from injury, there’s no reason for the Celtics to be excused for their poor play. Sure it’s the first game back, but the Celtics should have atleast kept this game competitive until the end, and their failure to do so against a Nets team that isn’t even at full strength doesn’t bode well for their postseason hopes.
Despite that, it’s tough to look too much into this loss. This was the Celtics first game of the season at full strength, and the rust showed. Jaylen Brown had easily his worst game of the season, as he shot a paltry 5/23 from the field, and just seemed out of sorts all night. Kemba Walker seemed set for a big game after dropping 9 points in the first quarter, but he only managed to score two points the rest of the night, which is isn’t a good sign. The bench unit, which had showed signs of life before the All-Star Break, also faltered tonight, and really hurt the Celtics.
It’s reasonable to expect Brown to perform better in just about every game he plays, and for Walker to get himself more involved in the game. Truthfully, Brown and Tatum don’t really have to take 20 shots a night with Walker and Smart back, and spreading the ball around more would help on nights like this. Brown doesn’t need to keep shooting when he’s having an off night anymore, as there was no reason for him to fire up 23 shots tonight. The Celtics are back at full strength, but clearly need some time to work out some of their kinks.
So after a tough game against the Nets to open the second half, the Celtics should have a little bit easier time with the Houston Rockets on Sunday. The Rockets have been in an absolute free fall since they lost Christian Wood to injury, as they are currently on a 13 game losing streak. The Celtics should look to take advantage of Houston’s struggles and try to get back in the win column, otherwise they’ll be face-to-face with a .500 record again.
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