The Boston Celtics rode Marcus Smart’s hot hand in the first half and Kyrie Irving’s in the second half, leading to a relatively easy 116-95 win over the surging Brooklyn Nets who are currently the 7th best team in the Eastern Conference. Smart posted 12 points, 4 rebounds and 7 assists while Irving notched a team-high 17 points and 6 assist. Boston had 8 players score in double figures, and Brooklyn was led by Rodions Kurucs who finished with 24 points. The Celtics have beaten the Nets 10 straight times now.
The Brooklyn Nets hit their first four 3-pointers and continued to shoot well in the first quarter but couldn’t fend off Marcus Smart whose hand literally burst into flames on the strength of 9 points on 3-4 shooting from behind the 3-point line in the first quarter. If you came into this game expecting a shoot-out between Smart and Rodions Kurucs, you’re a genius.
Smart is still on from downtown! pic.twitter.com/6X2Ozi3SO0— Boston Celtics (@celtics) January 8, 2019
This game was wildly entertaining in the first quarter, featuring some quick-hit offense from both ends. We even saw some of Brad’s coaching magic, with him perfectly drawing up this perfectly executed play for Gordon Hayward in the corner:
The corner trey is for Gordon! pic.twitter.com/TTB9Uq1wEi— Boston Celtics (@celtics) January 8, 2019
Just like the coach drew it up. Although the Nets came out as hot as the sun, Boston’s balanced offensive attack led to the Cs exiting the first quarter with a 34-22 lead.
The second quarter was different in that it was far less competitive but equally entertaining if you’re a Celtics fan. With the Nets’ injury report looking like this:
Nets @HSpecialSurgery Injury Report vs. Celtics:— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) January 7, 2019
Carroll (sore left knee) - OUT
Crabbe (sore right knee) - OUT
Harris (right ankle sprain) - OUT
Hollis-Jefferson (right adductor strain) - OUT
LeVert (subtalar dislocation, right foot) - OUT
Musa (left shoulder subluxation) - OUT
...Boston’s bench was able to beat up on the likes of guys like Kenneth Faried and Treveon Graham. If you’re a Nets fan, there have been better second quarters. Unlike the Hospital Celtics, the young Nets haven’t unlocked their ability to get better with a longer injury report. It’s a crucial skill to have as a scrappy, overachieving 7th seed. I’ll be watching these Nets’ career with great interest to see if they can get over that crucial hump.
As for what actually happened in the second quarter, it really came down to the Celtics playing well and non-Kurucs Nets players playing bad for a majority of the frame. The Nets finished the half with 12 turnovers. However, Brooklyn made up for by ending the half on an 18-9 run at the end of the half. Boston entered the break with a 56-45 lead over the Nets after leading by as much as 20 in the quarter.
The Nets came out of halftime with sincerely disciplined basketball, cutting Boston’s lead to just 5 before triggering a Brad Stevens timeout. As the Celtics started to regain control, Marcus Smart stole an errant pass from Jared Dudley, extending his NBA-leading streak of 24 straight games with a steal.
Thankfully for Boston, the rest of the third went much better. Highlighted by several tough passes, the offense had the ball whipping around from end to end, leading to a few standout possessions. Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown all squeezed some tight passes in the paint, making for an entertaining brand of basketball. Although the Celtics led by double figures for most of the quarter, the Nets never went away completely. The Celtics led 86-74 at the end of the third.
The Celtics got their 30th assist of the game at the 7:54 mark of the fourth quarter, extending their league-leading streak to 5. No other team this season has had more than 3 in a row. Although the Nets never went away fully, Boston also never let them come back fully, leading to a game that essentially felt in limbo for a majority of the time. The Celtics really started to pull away, setting a new season high with 37 assists.
Boston closed out a solid night with some TimeLord minutes, so honestly, this game had it all. The 24-15 Celtics take on the Indiana Pacers next on Wednesday at 7:00PM EST.