Shorthanded Nets fall to Celtics in brutal loss in final game before trade deadline

Brooklyn Nets
James Johnson drives to the basket against Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart and center Robert Williams III during the first quarter at Barclays Center.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Without any of the Nets’ “Big 3” on the court, and LaMarcus Aldridge and Nic Claxton sidelined, Brooklyn was outmatched and outplayed on Tuesday night in a 126-91 loss to the Boston Celtics. It extended the Nets losing streak to nine games and marked just over three weeks since Brooklyn last recorded a win.

The latest loss continued to drop the Nets further down in the standings. Brooklyn now sits in eighth in the East with a short two-game trip to Washington D.C. and Miami on the horizon.

The Nets found themselves severely shorthanded without players that play important roles and minutes in their lineup available for the game. Kevin Durant has been out since he sprained his MCL on Jan. 15 in Brooklyn and the Nets have gone 2-10 since then.

“These guys stayed together. We were down 28-2 on national TV and they didn’t drop their heads,” head coach Steve Nash said of his team. “That shows that our group is growing closer, not pulling apart and that’s the most difficult thing to do when you’re going through a period like this. I’m really proud of the guys and the way they’ve pushed and held each other up and continued to compete all the way to the final whistle.”

While the Nets have tried to remain positive through their current skid, Tuesday was another ugly outing.

Right from the jump, the Nets struggled to contain the red hot Celtics or even make a basket of their own for the better part of the first quarter. Brooklyn put up just four points through the first 8:14 of the first quarter and allowed the Celtics to open up the game on a 14-0 run before Blake Griffin finally knocked their first shot of the game at the 7:49 mark.

The Nets did end the first quarter on a 14-7 run, but trailed by 19 points. The 16 points that the Nets put up in the first was the lowest-scoring first period they’ve had this season.

The closest that Brooklyn would come to Boston was a 12 point deficit in the second quarter after Jevon Carter knocked a 25-foot three-pointer.

“We just can’t look at it as wins and losses,” Carter said after the game. “We just have to get better as a group. Stay together, keep fighting. Got a lot of guys out. Had a lot of guys out. We just gotta keep fighting and prepare and get better when those guys get back.”

It Was the Nets’ bench that led the scoring in the lopsided loss. Carter finished with a team-high 21 points on 7-of-16 shooting from the floor and he knocked down seven three-pointers for Brooklyn.

James Johnson had 17 points as well as 5 assists and 3 rebounds. Cam Thomas added 17 points of his own and David Duke Jr. put up 13 in his first game back assignment with the NBA G League Long Island Nets.

“This is a good building process for us,” Johnson said. “This is a good time to let us know who we have when it’s time to really be in those trenches. Staying together is important. Figuring out how to get out of this is important and obviously staying together.”

Tuesday’s game was the last game for the Nets before Thursday’s trade deadline and was the third consecutive game that James Harden had missed because of an injury. Trade rumors have continued to persist around Harden and the possibility of a deal with the Philadelphia 76ers for Ben Simmons before the deadline.

Harden was on the Nets bench during the game.

Prior to the game, Nash tried to dampen expectations for the deadline telling reporters that he didn’t expect the Nets to make a trade.