After coming off a win to the Miami Heat, the Nets had to go back on the road and face one of the NBA’s best in the Boston Celtics. it’s not the matchup you want, but the Celtics have shown at times this year that they’re beatable. After Boston’s 22-4 start to the season, it started to show kinks in its armor, going 7-6 since then.
Brooklyn was competitive for most of the game, but couldn’t execute late and see out the victory.
In the first quarter, the Nets went down 10-3 early. Kenny Atkinson tried to calm the Nets down with a timeout but the Celtics couldn’t miss from deep. They extended the lead to 13, and the Nets found a rhythm offensively but the Celtics kept responding with big shots. The Nets gave up 38 points in the first frame and desperately needed a spark plug heading into the second quarter.
In the second, the Nets locked in on defense. They drew offensive fouls and started getting in the grill of Celtics players.
Caris LeVert ended up being the spark plug the Nets needed, as he’s been doing all month. He gave the opposing defenders fits with his penetration to the basket and his passing. His drag step as he gets close to the basket is hard to guard, and if he doesn’t score he can draw a foul. He finished the half with 12 points, four rebounds and four assists.
Spencer Dinwiddie also came up big with two threes in the quarter and a crafty crossover and pass to Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to close the half. The Nets cut the Celtics’ lead to two heading into the second half.
The Nets took their first lead of the game early on in the third quarter, but the Celtics responded with a 18-5 run and saw their lead swell back to double digits. The Celtics started to clamp down defensively and Brooklyn couldn’t get the ball in the basket. The Nets’ defense wasn’t horrible, but the Celtics were making tough shots. Brooklyn was still within striking distance going into the last quarter.
It looked like the momentum was swung in Brooklyn’s direction at the end of the third, but Boston started the fourth on a huge run and the Nets couldn’t recover. The Nets were missing open shots and letting the shot clock fade on too many possessions, and they shot themselves in the foot on too many occasions in the fourth.
Even when they looked down and out, the Nets still had enough grit to give themselves a shot. Brooklyn fought to within three with 14.7 left in the fourth. The Nets have seen a lot of pull up threes from Spencer Dinwiddie this season in the dying moment of games, and this one didn’t come close.
The stats: 16 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, 5/12 shooting
Caris LeVert was great in this one. He constantly gave the Nets a boost when the offense looked stagnant. He’s shown that he can put together a nice stretch of games and if this is the LeVert we get for the rest of the season, then the Nets have a real player on their hands.
The stats: 22 points, 12 rebounds, 10/21 shooting
Hollis-Jefferson tried his best to get the Nets on the winning side of the ballgame. He took it upon himself to lead the scoring charge in the fourth and knocked down some looks at the basket. His mid-range game was in full effect in the fourth and it almost led to a Nets win.
Let’s hope he still has the same energy going into 2018.
The stats: 10 points, 9 rebounds, 3/9 shooting
Dinwiddie has struggled with the last basket of the game. He has often resorted to a late game pull up three and missed the mark. In this game, he saw himself in a wide open catch and shoot position to tie the contest and try and force overtime, but he missed, badly.
He didn’t play horribly in this game, but with the game on the line, he has to start looking for his teammates more often. There were 14.7 seconds left on the clock, that’s more than enough time to weigh your options and get a better look at the basket.