1. This is the kind of loss you could see coming a mile away. Emotional win the night before, travel (albeit short), facing a team desperate for a win and no Al Horford or Kyrie Irving. It all adds up to Boston losing. But it’s not the end of the world. The Indiana Pacers lost to the Orlando Magic, so nothing lost/nothing gained for the Celtics in their continued push for homecourt advantage in the playoffs.
2. Robert Williams only played a handful of non-garbage time minutes vs the Nets, but he looked solid. Aron Baynes had to go to the bench for a bit after knocking knees with Rodions Kurucs and Brad Stevens called on the rookie to take his place. The stat-line only shows four rebounds for Williams, but he was better than that. He set good screens, challenged shots, and most impressive was his pick and roll defense. Defending the screen game has been night and day since early in the season, which is what you hope to see from a rookie. Once Williams doesn’t have to think so much, he’s really going to take off as a player.
3. Brooklyn threw a zone defense against Boston early on and the Celtics really struggled. Recognition was part of it. It took a few trips before everyone realized what they were seeing. After that, Boston settled for a lot of tough shots. Once they got comfortable against the zone, they started getting great looks from good spots.
4. The Celtics bigs can really pass the ball. On this play, Daniel Theis makes a Horford-esque read. He catches the ball off the pick and roll, draws the defense and immediately kicks to Jaylen Brown for an open three-pointer:
5. Speaking of Brown, it was an up-and-down night for him. He shot just 3-of-10 from the floor, but he made some plays too. On this play, he has D’Angelo Russell one-on-one, and that has been one of the tougher covers in the NBA this season. Brown sticks with him and volleyball spikes Russell’s layup at the rim:
6. Despite the loss, Boston got good minutes off the bench from Theis (16 points), Gordon Hayward and Brad Wanamaker. Hayward scored 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting, while Wanamaker had an odd game. Wanamaker scored eight points in the second quarter, making all three of shots from the floor. He also had a couple of rebounds and three assists. Unfortunately, on a night when Irving was out and playing time was available, Wanamaker fouled out in just under 13 minutes. A couple of the calls were tough ones, but he was also a little over-aggressive against ballhandlers.
7. The Celtics shot just 42 percent for the game, mostly because they rushed shots and didn’t move the ball. When Boston was patient and ran their stuff, they got great looks like this one from Hayward to Brown:
8. Part of the poor shooting came from Terry Rozier, who had a nightmare of a game. He was just 1-of-8 from the floor and his defense was arguably even worse. He was the primary defender against Russell when the Nets All-Star went off for 20 points in the third quarter. Once Russell was out of the box, the Celtics had to slant their defense towards trapping him. He then became a playmaker for others, as he finished with 10 assists. Rozier’s inability to contain Russell after halftime was a major factor in Boston losing. Shooting can come and go, but defense should never be this much of a problem for Rozier.
9. Without Horford, Stevens threw in a wrinkle late in the third/early fourth quarter: he went to small-ball with Marcus Morris at the center spot. Baynes was clearly hobbling a bit after banging knees early in the game, Theis was gassed and Boston needed more offense on the floor. The offense delivered, but the defense fell apart. Brooklyn got several good looks at the rim and controlled the glass while Boston was small and the Nets put the game away during this portion of the contest.
10. As mentioned above, the loss didn’t really hurt the Celtics, as Orlando beat Indiana later in the evening. Because of that, you can find some joy in the absurd garbage time lineup Boston closed the game with: Theis, Williams, Semi Ojeleye, Guerschon Yabusele and Greg Monroe. Those are five guys who are more suited to playing center than anything resembling a guard. With Wanamaker having fouled out and the game out of hand, Stevens tossed together what has to be one of the biggest lineups in NBA history for the final minute or so of this game.