With life’s peaks come the valleys, and that is Brooklyn’s story over the past two days.
After shocking the NBA world with an undermanned defeat of the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday, the Nets struggled to find the same offensive rhythm against the Celtics on the second half of a back-to-back. A win against the Celtics would have clinched Brooklyn’s playoff berth, but the team instead allowed the most points it has all season (149) after being were out-scored in every quarter.
A game Boston led by as many as 34 points saw the Nets struggle on defense while also going cold from distance. After a start that saw the teams trade the lead, the Celtics first pulled away with its 13 first-quarter free throws and built on it with a very strong performance from three-point range (20-of-39).
The Nets held early hope after Jayson Tatum quickly gained three fouls, but the Celtics fed off Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward on the way to a 19-point first-half lead. Tatum and Brown later combined 40 points–including 10 made three-pointers–despite Tatum’s decreased minutes. The Celtics were motivated after losing to the Heat on Tuesday, and they delivered.
The game saw the return of Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen and Joe Harris, who all sat out the game against the Bucks with injury tweaks. The trio performed well, with LeVert and Allen at times working to initiate momentum by turning defense into offense, but were not able to break away as they did against the Wizards. And no, LeVert did not have a reincarnation of his 51-point game against the Celtics in March.
One area the Nets dominated throughout the night was its paint presence, out-scoring Boston 72-48 inside. The bench struggled early, scoring just 19 points in the first half, but performed well in the second half as Jeremiah Martin, Donta Hall and Justin Anderson entered late, gaining the narrow 70-69 edge over Boston’s bench.
After scoring 21 three-pointers against the Bucks, the Nets shot just 8-of-32 from distance, making it increasingly difficult to cut into Boston’s lead. A 20-1 Boston run that spanned the first and second quarters saw them go ahead by double digits for the rest of the contest.
While Brooklyn was sloppy with 18 turnovers, the team hurt itself further with its fouls. Beyond allowing the Celtics to go 29-of-35 from the line, the Nets fouled a three-point shooter four times during the game, which is clearly not a recipe for success. The mistakes just cut into any momentum Brooklyn had worked to form.
The loss puts Brooklyn at 2-2 in the bubble and just short of clinching the playoffs. The team remains in good shape as Orlando lost today, keeping the Nets in the No. 7 spot in the East. Next up: a matchup with the Sacramento Kings on Friday.
The win against the Bucks was a good start, but consistency will be the next step. Just like Jacque Vaughn’s bamboo plant, the Nets must be flexible, adaptable and resilient.
Sometimes that is easier said than done.
The stats: 20 PTS, 8-12 FG, 2-4 3FG, 2-2 FT, 1 REB, 4 AST, 2 TO, 1 STL, 16 MIN
Jeremiah Martin did not enter the game until the second half, but that did not stop him from taking advantage of his minutes.
Martin brings a lot of energy to the court, showing aggression to get to the basket and set up his teammates. In his first few minutes alone, Martin quickly racked up a few assists and ended up leading the team in points, though most were in garbage time.
It would have been interesting to see how the Nets would have responded if Martin was placed in the rotation sooner, but his performances as of late are good signs going forward. Has he earned himself more minutes? That is not yet clear, but he is doing his best to do so.
The stats: 14 PTS, 6-14 FG, 1-5 3FG, 1-2 FT, 6 REB, 2 AST, 1 TO, 2 STL, 25 MIN
Joe Harris was back, but he was not raining buckets like the Celtics were on Wednesday.
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) August 6, 2020
As is often the case, Harris makes himself known with his hustle and cuts to the rim, but the Nets were missing his three-point shot. He was one of six Nets in double figures but only made one early three-pointer.
Harris assisted on defense, nabbing six rebounds and two steals, but the Nets always need his buckets. He came alive on offense against the Wizards on Sunday, and the Nets would love to see more of that going forward in the bubble.
The stats: 13 PTS, 6-14 FG, 0-3 3FG, 1-3 FT, 5 REB, 1 AST, 4 TO, 2 STL, 2 BLK, 27 MIN
Caris LeVert was more impressive defensively than he was on offense against the Celtics.
LeVert tried to build some momentum by forcing steals and blocks, and he rebounded well. All the Nets were missing was his offensive control, where LeVert struggled by recording just one assist to four turnovers.
Of course, it is always fun to watch LeVert play, but he could not muster up enough offensively to counter Boston’s production. After scoring 51 points against the Celtics in March, one off night from him is acceptable, but the Nets need close to 20 points from LeVert each game to be able to compete.
The stats: 13 PTS, 4-8 FG, 0-1 3FG, 5-5 FT, 1 REB, 2 AST, 1 TO, 1 STL, 17 MIN
Dzanan Musa brought a strong presence off the bench through the end of the contest.
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) August 6, 2020
Musa gave the Nets’ bench a much-needed boost early and was reliable at the free throw line. He was a steady hand and was also one of the lone Nets not to commit a foul.
If Musa can continue to be aggressive, then he stands out among a Nets bench that is fighting for minutes in the bubble.
The stats: 11 PTS, 5-8 FG, 0-1 3FG, 1-1 FT, 8 REB, 4 AST, 1 STL, 28 MIN
Jarrett Allen did not get a double-double, but he did manage to attempt a three-point shot!
While Allen did not reach his usual benchmark, he contributed in other ways by dishing four assists. That part of his game was the highlight of his night, outside his contribution to Brooklyn’s impact in the paint.
The Nets would love to see more of the Allen that they saw against the Wizards, but he was not the only player to underperform. Boston is a solid team, and Allen was just one of the Nets that felt the effects of the Celtics’ talent.