Recap: Nets 95, Celtics 120 - Bottoming Out in Boston
The Brooklyn Nets played competitively for all of one quarter of their devastating 95-120 loss in Boston.
Despite a 2-10 record entering Friday’s game, the Nets were feeling a bit better about themselves of late, with two wins in their last five games and an overtime loss on the road to the undefeated Golden State Warriors mixed in. Following the 25-point thrashing at the hands of their Atlantic Division rivals, and the draft pick implications that a loss to Boston conjures up, and Friday’s loss could represent the lowest point of the season already for the Brooklyn Nets, just 13 games into their 2015-16 campaign.
The first quarter began in typical Nets fashion, with minutes-long stretches of offensive inactivity that was interspersed with aggressive moves from Thaddeus Young around the basket. Rookie Rondae Hollis-Jefferson chipped in with a couple of drives and would go on to lead all players in rebounds, while long jumpers from veterans Joe Johnson and Jarrett Jack tied the game early. Nets guards helped to contain point guard Isaiah Thomas and hold him to a 0/6 shot chart, but lazy passes on the offensive end led to five Celtics steals and a four-point deficit at the quarter’s close.
The Nets’ defense would completely abandon them in the second quarter, “holding” the Celtics to three missed shots and four turnovers in a lopsided 43-23 stretch. All three missed field goals from Boston came from beyond the arc, giving them a perfect 12/12 conversion rate on two-point shots that were largely assisted and of the “layup” and “wide open” variety. The Brooklyn bench simply could not stay with the ball movement of the Celtics, and Lionel Hollins again went to the Brook Lopez/Andrea Bargnani frontcourt that (again) failed to defend a more mobile opponent (in Boston’s case, the David Lee/Kelly Olynyk pairing). Sergey Karasev cracked Hollins’s bench lineup in favor of Wayne Ellington, who played just three minutes, and nailed a three-pointer on a Brook assist, as one of the few bright spots to a second quarter that was completely dominated by the Celtics.
Without the ability to maintain consistent effort on the defensive side of the ball, the Brooklyn Nets were just about hopeless following a 20-point hole at halftime. The offense attacked the basket and drew more free throws in the third quarter (12) than the Celtics did all evening (10), though the impact on the scoreboard was negligible as Boston kept moving the ball for open jumpers and flexed their lead further into the 20’s.
The fourth quarter was a formality, featuring dueling benches as the final buzzer sounded. The Nets ran out a Shane Larkin/Markel Brown/Karasev/Hollis-Jefferson/Thomas Robinson lineup to close that was at least interesting and uptempo in their attack. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was probably the main beneficiary to the blowout in Boston, leading the team in minutes (31) and notching his first career double-double with 13 points (on 5/12 from the field and 1/4 from three) and 11 rebounds. Larkin finished second in minutes, at 30, and scored 10 points (on eight field goal attempts) with four steals.
Thaddeus Young again came out as an aggressive scorer for the Brooklyn Nets, before his effort was ultimately nullified by the score. Though he’d finish with 14 points on 17 shot attempts and a game-low minus-21 point differential during his time on the court, Young kept up his contributions on the boards with another double double and finished with zero turnovers in back-to-back games. Brook Lopez added 14 points of his own on just nine attempts, but looked a step slow in challenging Boston’s shot attempts and finished without a blocked shot for the first time this season.
Meanwhile, Joe Johnson saved his best contribution of the night for the post-game media scrum, explaining how the team lost so thoroughly. Not mentioned by Johnson was his own statline of three points on just 1/5 shooting, and his struggles against the active hands of Jae Crowder. Whether due to his escalating age or the pressures of drawing the opposing team’s best defender every night, but Joe Johnson needs to provide the spacing and scoring from the perimeter for the Brooklyn Nets to at least have a chance against decent teams, and a rematch on Sunday against the Celtics and Crowder will be an interesting test not only for Joe Johnson, but for the Nets.
After Friday’s 95-120 loss, and the cascading chorus of “Thank You, Brooklyn!” from the Celtics’ crowd to close out the contest, the Brooklyn Nets’ season could already be at a perilous point, with still 69 games left to go. Sunday’s 6:00 pm home game against the Boston Celtics will tell us more about the team’s toughness and resolve in the face of adversity, and as to whether their 25-point road loss will truly represent the low point in the Brooklyn Nets’ 2015-16 season.