The Celtics headed to Brooklyn hoping to end their three-game road trip with a win. Not only were the Celtics looking to improve their spot in the standings by getting their third W in a row, but as we all know any game against Brooklyn is basically worth double on account of the #netspick. (Yup, there’s STILL picks to come to Boston from the Nets.)
The Celtics started the game essentially back at full health, with Jae Crowder a game-time decision as to whether or not he would play due to lingering ankle soreness. But the starting lineup remained unchanged with Jae joining Al Horford, who has been staggeringly good since his return, Amir Johnson, Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley.
Lopez got the tipoff for the Nets, which led to an early blocked shot by Al Horford as Brooklyn’s first offensive possession fell apart and the Celtics went back the other way.
Avery Bradley scored Boston’s first two buckets, and Bradley continued his good form on both ends of the floor for most of the opening half. A crafty layup and a long three-pointer from Isaiah continued the Celtics’ early run as the Nets looked nervous and scrambled to find opportunities.
Boston’s rebounding showed improvement, as they dominated on the boards early. All members of the Celtic frontcourt contributed by pulling down every loose ball in sight. But it was the passing play from the Celtics that sent the ball all over the court and kept everyone involved, leaving Brooklyn reeling from a double-digit deficit halfway through the first quarter.
One sequence that saw the ball batted back and forth by both Boston and Brooklyn ended with a strong defensive play by Smart. Smart grabbed a hasty pass from Brook Lopez out of mid-air and then hurled it back across the court to Isaiah for an easy bucket. But virtually everyone in green was getting in on the defensive action as the Nets stacked up turnovers, and Boston piled on with easy transition buckets.
Despite a few broken plays the Celtics were impressive, as they looked for the extra pass on every possession and rotated with efficiency, playing well as a collective unit. At the end of the first quarter, the Celtics were up by 14 after the Nets struggled to keep up with Boston’s breakneck pace.
In the second quarter the Celtics gave the second unit an extended run as Smart, Brown, and Rozier saw plenty of playing time together, showing the Nets what some young blood in your team can bring. Smart’s passing game has noticeably improved, and he stacked up assists in the first half, dishing it out five times in just fifteen minutes.
The Nets managed to fight back with a 10-2 run as some defensive lapses allowed them to find a bunch of open shots. The Celtics seemed to get noticeably bogged down while IT and Rozier shared the floor. The super-small backcourt proved to be a bit of a defensive liability and less effective on offense than you would expect.
At points during the second quarter, the Celtics moved away from what they do best: running hard and getting a lot of transition points. There were several occasions when Boston avoided a potential fastbreak opportunity, instead slowing down to let the offense set-up. This might have been because Stevens was preaching patience and attempting to run a lot of set plays, but whatever the reason it slowed down the Celtics scoring and allowed the Nets to get back in the game.
Horford hit some long-range buckets, and the Celtics did their best to stretch out the Brooklyn defense by giving Olynyk and Horford plenty of time together. But Boston’s early advantage in turnovers was all but lost in the second quarter, and the Nets took advantage, stabilising the score and taking some momentum to the break. The Nets had eroded the Celtics’ big lead down to two, with the scores at 51-49.
Bogdanovic was on fire for most of the game, scoring at will against Boston’s defense and putting in an Olympic-level performance. But Boston came back from the break with renewed intensity and did their best to force the Nets into making tough shots. On the offensive end, the Celtics worked through every possession as a unit, making sure everyone was involved in every play.
However, poor shooting meant the Celtics were unable to establish themselves for most of the third frame. Boston continued to fire from three relentlessly but with little luck. But team Brook-Lin (that’s Brook minus Lin, in this instance) couldn’t capitalise on the Celtics’ sloppy shooting form and continued to trail behind Boston, if only barely, for the entire third quarter.
Meanwhile the Celtics finally found their form after a made shot from Al Horford seemingly took the lid off the rim for the Celtics and propelled a run that allowed them to extend the lead back to double digits.
Play became increasingly physical throughout the third, which perhaps unsurprisingly favoured the Celtics. Boston took a strong lead into the fourth quarter with the scores at 79-66.
The bench proved its worth, with Rozier and Smart seeing additional playing time together and meeting Brooklyn’s physicality head on. Jonas Jerebko, meanwhile, stepped up his game significantly on both ends of the floor with a fourth-quarter flurry that put up points for the Celtics in a hurry.
In the end, the fourth quarter came down to cohesion, as both teams battled hard to try and get the win. Ultimately, the Celtics asserted themselves as the more determined team. Smart played through most of the fourth in place of Amir, but alongside the other Celtics’ starters, that unit was able to balance offense and defense nicely.
The end result was Gino Time in Brooklyn, as the Celtics pulled off the emphatic win 111-92.