It was a night the Celtics will want to quickly forget. The Boston Celtics squandered an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter to lose in overtime 129-120. It was a collapse of epic proportions that was punctuated by an inexcusable foul on a game-tying three-point attempt by Caris LeVert with a second left on the clock. Levert would finish the game with 51 points, including all of the Nets’ 11 in OT.
It was a miserable final frame that would erase another stout team defensive performance. Instead, they gave up 51 points in the fourth quarter and 11 more in overtime, a tough scene when the best defense at the end of the game was the Celtics security team holding back Marcus Smart arguing with refs.
Putting the Nets’ comeback aside, the Celtics really did play stout defense most of the first three quarters. Marcus Smart was just building on his Defensive Player of the Year campaign and bench players like Grant Williams and Robert Williams were making everything difficult in the paint for the Nets big men.
Initially, it was a night of highlight plays, but the team made a 180-degree turn in the last 12 minutes. The first 36 was a showcase of switching from all five positions to disrupt opposing offenses. It was a resume-building performance for Boston’s best on-ball defender, Marcus Smart.
It is worth mentioning that there were many contributing factors to this collapse. The roster was ailing without Jayson Tatum, but also, Gordon Hayward left at halftime with a knee contusion, Jaylen Brown exited the game in the fourth quarter with a hamstring injury, and Kemba Walker was on a minute restriction. It is the main reason the team looked completely gassed while the Nets chipped away. Then, when Marcus Smart fouled out in overtime, it was a line up of Brad Wanamaker, Carsen Edwards, Semi Ojeleye, and Daniel Theis.
In addition to the thin lineup, Caris LeVert carried the Nets, playing out of his mind with a career-high 51 points. The Celtics tried to contain him on all fronts, even blitzing two guys at him once he got the ball on a few possessions, but he still scored. Unstoppable offense will always trounce effortless defense.
It was the lackadaisical D to start the quarter from the Celtics that really opened the door for the comeback. From there, it was just a break down of everything they had been doing right to this point. No one was switching or helping on the weak side. It gave Brooklyn a scoring opportunity multiple times down the court. Yes, sometimes great offense just wins out, but it was the two-faced defensive effort that really allowed the Nets to steal one in the Garden.