Well, that wasn’t how the Nets had hoped to start off the second half of the season.
The Nets fell 129-106 to the Boston Celtics in their first game out of the NBA All-Star break on Thursday at the Barclays Center. While the loss wasn’t nearly as bad as their 126-91 defeat at the hands of Boston earlier this month, the Nets struggled out of the gate and never held a lead in their second loss in their last four games.
It was another night that the Nets played shorthanded without some of their best players, including Kevin Durant, Ben Simmons and Kyrie Irving. Both Durant and Simmons are expected to return soon, with Durant possibly returning within the Nets’ next three games, but that did Brooklyn no good on Thursday night.
The team shot just 41.5% (39-for-94) from the field and 24.1% (7-for-29) from three-point range. The Celtics led by as many as 24 points after three-quarters of play at Barclays Center.
“Our message is staying together and staying positive,” Steve Nash said. “I told the guys we had two great days of practice and tonight I don’t think we got better. I don’t care about the result, but I thought we could have played better. We could have made less mistakes. Could have done a few more things that would have made tonight more productive.
“We recognized we’re shorthanded. We’re sending these guys out there and asking them to do more than they’re accustomed to doing.”
Seth Curry led the Nest with 22 points and shot 10-for-19. Bruce Brown contributed 15 points and was the only Brooklyn player to score in double digits in the first quarter.
Andre Drummond added 11 and Kessler Edwards scored 13 points off the bench. Nic Claxton appeared in his first game since Feb. 4 in Utah and played four minutes.
“They beat us in a lot of different areas,” Curry said. “It’s hard to say what exact mistakes we made, but that’s a good team that we just didn’t match what they were doing on both ends of the floor from the get-go.”
Patty Mills’ struggles continued on Thursday as the Aussie sharpshooter had just one point in 28 minutes of work. Mills went 0-for-9 from the field and 0-for-5 from beyond the arc.
The loss was not what the Nets needed out of the gate, as they drop to 31-29 on the year. Brooklyn had entered the night sitting in eighth in the Eastern Conference and fell 7.5 games back of the top spot in the conference.
The Nets remained in a play-in round spot following the defeat at the hands of the Celtics.
“I just know we’re in the play-in. I don’t know how many games or anything. I’m not too worried about it,” Brown responded when asked about the Nets’ positioning in the standings. “Our guys are going to come back and take care of business.”
Things never seemed close right from the opening tip. The Celtics went on an 8-2 run to start the game and the Beantown visitors built off the early lead.
The Nets did manage to pull within three early in the first quarter off of a Brown three, but that was the closest they’d get the rest of the night. Boston opened a 16 point lead with less than a minute to play in the first when Derrick White knocked down pull-up three.
The Nets were able to stay within 15 at the start of the second half off shots from Brown and Curry, but the Celtics again forged forward and built back on their lead.
“The smart thing to do of it take it game by game,” Nash said. “But we understand the situation we’re in. We know there’s urgency. We know that we’re not going to have a half a season to figure this thing out. we’re going to be up against the clock.”