Al Horford started the night by thanking the fans in attendance for their continued support, and the Boston Celtics closed out the season giving the fans something to be thankful for by beating the Brooklyn Nets 110-97 in the regular-season finale. Aron Baynes led the way with 26 points and 14 rebounds. This is not a drill.
Baynes (14 first-quarter points) was particularly aggressive to start the game as the only regular starter to play tonight. Horford along with Terry Rozier, Marcus Morris, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum all sat out tonight in addition to the usual suspects on the injury report. This didn’t stop Boston, who fielded a starting lineup of Shane Larkin, Jabari Bird, Abdel Nader, Guerschon Yabusele and Baynes. You didn’t read that incorrectly.
This game was an excellent opportunity for the younger guys to carry some confidence into the playoffs, and that’s exactly what they did. Players like Jonathan Gibson (18 points) and Yabusele really capitalized on their boost in minutes tonight.
Gibson takes it the length of the court in a split second for two! pic.twitter.com/FoZopnQ1Oq— Boston Celtics (@celtics) April 12, 2018
The first quarter, Baynes’s explosion notwithstanding, was a strong outing, with the team jumping out to a quick 12-point lead. Brooklyn’s bench closed the gap, however, keeping things interesting. Boston took a 27-22 lead into the first quarter after 29 first-quarter field-goal attempts, a season-high.
After a brief stretch at the beginning of the second when Nik Stauskas (18 points) and Dante Cunningham (8 points) had the Nets bench outplaying Boston’s, Gibson, Bird and Greg Monroe did a great job of pushing the lead back into the double digits. Boston closed out the first half with a 53-43 lead.
The third quarter was almost picture perfect. The Celtics out-hustled, out-rebounded and out-played the Nets in just about every way. Baynes continued his improbable dominance, and the team coasted into the fourth quarter behind plays like this:
With Yabusele and the Celtics in full performance mode tonight, not much was in doubt early into the third. Boston entered the fourth with an 83-70 lead over the Nets.
The fourth quarter brought much of the same as the third, with the Celtics reserves’ reserves maintaining the lead established by the reserve starters. If you’re still reading this after watching the game, congratulations. My gift to you is . . . actually, I have nothing.
Shane Larkin was a steady presence all game, finishing with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists. Yabu chipped in a career-high 16 points, and Greg Monroe added 9 points and 8 rebounds off of the bench. The Celtics as a team notched a season-high 62 rebounds. Allen Crabbe contributed 16 points for Brooklyn in a losing effort.
The #NetsPick Saga has finally concluded.
In a season that seemed finished right after it started, the Celtics will finish the year with a 55-27 record, shattering all expectations after the 6-minute mark of the first game of the season. As the playoffs tip off this weekend, Boston will play the Milwaukee Bucks. Let the playoffs begin!