In their first game of In-Season Tournament play on Friday night, the Boston Celtics defeated the Brooklyn Nets 121-107. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown dominated the scoring, but a mix of Payton Pritchard, Sam Hauser, and Luke Kornet lifted the Celtics’ bench to an impressive showing that ultimately helped secure the victory.
A hot start helped the Celtics jump out to a 20-11 lead, but the Nets battled back thanks to some tough shot-making and a few missed opportunities for Boston at the rim.
Kristaps Porzingis utilized his size early against a Nets starting unit whose tallest member was Cam Johnson at 6-foot-8, but the big man quickly gave way to Brown, who was automatic in the first quarter. He finished the period with 12 points to Porzingis’ seven.
Boston’s defensive gameplan returned to the ideals of the first few games, prioritizing Porzingis in drop with a scramble mindset on the perimeter. With Tatum, Jrue Holiday, and others sprinting around the three-point line, they were able to force some turnovers, but it also led to a few easy looks for the Nets when not executed correctly.
However, Porzingis and the Celtics adjusted as the game went on. The Latvian behemoth exited the paint more frequently, closing out on Brooklyn’s shooters and trapping when the possession called for it. By the end of the half, he was roaming the three-point line, contesting shots to help limit the Nets’ shooting.
Lonnie Walker IV, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Cam Johnson, who made his return from injury after a seven-game absence, all benefitted from some open looks. Brooklyn’s offense survived on tough floaters and open threes in the first half.
Brown’s first-quarter fanatics were matched by Tatum in the second. Some red-hot shooting from distance lifted the Celtics en route to a 13-point second quarter for the superstar.
Walker IV’s scoring kept the Nets within striking distance throughout the first half, as he had 13 points on 3-of-4 shooting from deep. With Cam Thomas sidelined, he stepped up as a featured offensive threat.
The second half opened with Porzingis working down low, generating some nice looks for himself and his teammates. Without Nic Claxton or Ben Simmons to dissuade him, Porzingis was a constant outlet for Boston on offense. Derrick White also turned it up in the third quarter after a struggle-filled first half.
Some solid defensive stances by the Celtics made an impact, but Brooklyn’s lack of offensive creation began to rear its ugly head in the second half. Thomas has been the Nets’ go-to source of scoring in the early stages of the season, and without him on the court, their halfcourt offense was brutal.
Despite their inconsistent shot creation, the Nets still found ways to battle. They made tough jumpers, capitalized on Boston turnovers, and nailed their open threes, keeping what could have been a 20-point Celtics lead at around 10 during the latter stages of the third.
But just when the toughness and grit of the Nets looked like it was going to carry them to a tightly contested game, the fourth quarter started, and Tatum checked back in the game.
Tatum continued his shooting dominance, and the Celtics completely overwhelmed the Nets on the offensive end. Pritchard Sam Hauser made their mark, too, which carried over from an impressive first half from the bench duo. Hauser nailed his threes while Pritchard’s offensive rebounding and playmaking were on full display to start the fourth.
Jrue Holiday also deserves credit for the Celtics win. His impact wasn’t condensed into scoring spurts like Tatum, Brown, and even White, but he was chimed in with his fair share of buckets throughout the night. Holiday ended the game with 13 points, 12 rebounds, and nine assists.
But in the end, while Tatum and Brown led the way in the scoring column, Boston’s bench was the highlight of this game. Pritchard, Hauser, and Kornet looked like a well-oiled machine, creating offense and keeping the Celtics comfortably ahead throughout the night.
With the win, the Celtics moved to 6-2 on the season, snapping their two-game losing streak in the process. Boston’s next game will be on Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time against the Toronto Raptors.