This one hurts.
After gaining some real momentum with a big win over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night, the Boston Celtics were unable to keep it rolling and ended up losing to the Brooklyn Nets 109-104 Friday night in Brooklyn. The loss puts the C’s at 32-28, good for sixth place in the East, while the win moved the 40-20 Nets into first place in the conference.
Coming into the game without Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker, or Robert Williams, this game was always going to be tough. But the Nets were without two superstars in James Harden and Kevin Durant, so it felt doable. And Boston did nothing to change that belief in the first quarter. Led by Jayson Tatum’s hot start, with nine points in the opening quarter, the Celtics took a 25-21 lead into the second.
However, a 12-0 run at the start of the second quarter gave the Nets a 33-28 lead, and the Celtics never led after that point. Surprisingly, it was former Celtic Jeff Green that led the second quarter charge, scoring 11 points in the frame to help the Nets take a nine-point, 60-51 lead into the half.
From there, Boston didn’t get closer than 6 points until there were less than 4 minutes left in the game. But after Jayson Tatum drilled a three to put the score to 98-95, the Nets responded with a quick 5-0 run on a Joe Harris three and Jeff Green dunk that basically put this game to bed.
Jayson Tatum basically was the Celtics offense in this game. Without Brown and Walker, Tatum was always going to have to carry a heavy load, but he truly had to run this game for Boston. He finished with 38 points on 14-27 shooting and 6-12 on threes. After some rough shooting outings, it was good to see him bounce back with a good scoring performance, even in a loss.
Only two other players joined Tatum in double figures (Marcus Smart with 19 and Payton Pritchard with 22), continuing a season-long trend of inconsistent play from anyone not named Tatum or Brown. We know that those two are stars, and that this team is going to be in good hands with them at the wheel. But without more consistency from the bench, there’s only so much Boston’s young superstars can do. Tatum had 38 in this game, and it still wasn’t enough to beat a depleted Nets team. Hopefully, with Evan Fournier returning and roles hopefully solidifying as this team gets healthy, and that’s a big hopefully, the bench will produce at the levels it was early in the season, but only time will tell on that front.
A large reason why Tatum’s stellar effort wasn’t enough for a win was the play of Kyrie Irving. Although he had an off shooting night, only going 4-19 from the field, he was key to the Nets win. He put up a near triple-double of 15 points, 11 assists, and nine rebounds, and at times it looked like there were about three of him on the floor making plays to win the game. And of course, his incredible handle and finishing abilities were on display, such as this driving and-one layup.
For as poorly as things ended in Boston, there’s no denying the immense talent that Irving possesses, and he plays some of the most beautiful basketball in the league when he’s out on the court.
Could Boston have won this game? Definitely. Should they have? Probably. Back-to-back wins over top teams in their respective conferences would have been really nice, especially playing without Jaylen Brown in either game. But in the end, there’s only so much Jayson Tatum could do to carry Boston in this game. It’s a team game, the next best players on his team were out, and only two other teammates really had any impact. The Nets are a really good team, and showed tonight that they’re a lot deeper and more well-rounded than many give them credit for, pulling off this type of win without their two best players.
Boston’s next game is on Sunday afternoon against the hungry Charlotte Hornets. Charlotte currently holds the 8 seed, so they are definitely gunning to move up the standings and avoid the play-in tournament if they can. Tip-off is at 1pm on Sunday.
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