Boston wore its black Statement jerseys as they finished 2017 with a 108-105 win against the pesky Brooklyn Nets. Kyrie Irving led the way with 28 points and 8 rebounds, and Al Horford chipped in a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The Celtics jumped out to a hot start, looking well-rested after two days off. The rebounding was crisp, the players looked like they had their legs under them, and the shots were falling. Jaylen Brown (13 points), after missing the last two games with a knee injury, continued his trend of first quarter dominance with 7 points in that frame. His attacks in transition were timely, and his quick cuts around the floor helped the Celtics lead the Nets 38-28 at the end of the first despite the back-breaking effect of a Tyler Zeller 3-pointer. Well, that and a Terry Rozier buzzer-beating 3-pointer:
If at first you don't succeed... pic.twitter.com/cfg5hmthkt— Boston Celtics (@celtics) December 31, 2017
Rozier has been playing tremendously since his game-winner in Indiana, and his hot play of late continued into tonight’s game. Rozier has always used his athleticism on the court, but against the Nets, he found ways to finish his athletic plays at the rim. His contributions helped the Celtics to avoid completely falling apart in the second quarter - their usual tendency. He ended the game with 14 points and 7 rebounds.
Kyrie Irving was excellent in the first half with 17 points on 70% shooting. Irving received the rare technical foul halfway through the second quarter following contact on one of his 3-point attempts to which he took exception. After picking up an offensive foul on the following possession, Irving regained his composure with five straight points.
Lately, Brad Stevens has gone to Al Horford to lead the second unit, but this strategy was unsuccessful after a brief burst to start the second quarter. After shooting 69.5% from field in the first quarter, Boston couldn’t help itself but to succumb to its usual second quarter woes. Boston extended their lead to 13 before going into halftime with only a two-point lead. Caris LeVert (16 points, 6 rebounds, and 7 assists) was a big part of the run by Brooklyn’s bench that brought the Nets back in the game.
The Nets continued their run into the third quarter as they briefly took the lead behind a 6-0 run. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was huge for Brooklyn, and he finished the game with 22 points and 12 rebounds. Horford and Irving wasted no time from then on to establish discipline behind a few plays that pushed Boston back on top for good. This look from Horford was part of the spark that got things going:
Additionally, what helped the Celtics regain and keep the lead in the third was the return of the defense. Aron Baynes (5 points, 10 rebounds) helped seal off the interior, and the team resumed its solid rebounding from the first quarter. Marcus Morris contributed to the team’s success, adding points to his overall total of 15 points in 17 minutes. Morris shot a tidy 71% from the field.
Because the Celtics have trouble with completely destroying opponents, the Nets fought their way back into the game starting from the five-minute mark of the fourth quarter. With 18 seconds left, Quincy Acy (14 points) hit a huge 3-pointer to cut the lead to two points. A few freethrows and two defensive stops later, victory was secured for the home team.
Importantly, Boston improved to 7-1 when wearing the black Statement jerseys.
Boston opens 2018 with two days of rest once again before a Wednesday night showdown against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on ESPN. This will be Isaiah Thomas’ first game back in Boston since the August trade that brought Kyrie Irving to town, and if he’s cleared by team doctors, it will be Thomas’ first game played this season after sitting out the first half the year with a hip injury. With everything Thomas accomplished in Boston over two years, it’s sure to be an emotional affair.