Nets lose by 5 in four fewer minutes

Jared Sullinger, Mason Plumlee
Jared Sullinger dominated as the Celtics won in 44 minutes, 95-90. (AP)

Jared Sullinger, Mason Plumlee
Jared Sullinger dominated as the Celtics won in 44 minutes, 95-90. (AP)

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — The Nets are no longer undefeated in preseason, losing 95-90 to the Boston Celtics in an historic NBA preseason game.

The Nets raced out to an early lead, holding most of the first half by at least double digits behind 15 first-half points from Jarrett Jack. But the Celtics fired back in the third quarter, getting most of their shots close to the basket and drawing shooting fouls, before the Celtics poured on the points in the fourth behind Jared Sullinger, who finished the game with 19 points and 19 rebounds.

It was the first preseason loss for the Nets, who had previously beaten Maccabi Tel Aviv and the Sacramento Kings twice.

The game’s outcome was secondary to the running time: for the first time in league history, the two teams played a 44-minute game, with one fewer minute per quarter and one fewer timeout in each half, to assess both the flow of an NBA game and how the game might fit better into a TV slot.

If the NBA thinks it could work, they would implement it in the D-League before turning its eye to the NBA. It would be a massive rule change in a league that doesn’t come across rule changes of that magnitude lightly. It would affect the record books, though perhaps not significantly for the league’s premier players.

“The change will be for the guys who don’t start,” Lionel Hollins said about the potential rule change. “If Joe Johnson’s playing 35 minutes in a 48-minute game, he’s gonna play 35 minutes in a 44-minute game. It just means the guys coming off the bench will have four less minutes to operate with.” It a macro sense, he’s right: no player has averaged more than 44 minutes per game since 1978, when a 26-year-old Truck Robinson averaged 44.4 in 82 games. It was a different era — last season’s leaders, Carmelo Anthony and Jimmy Butler, played 38.7 minutes per game.

But in preseason, those minutes don’t matter. Teams don’t play a regular rotation in exhibition games, so there’s not much for the league to glean from substitution patterns. Likely, the league was more interested to see if a 44-minute game could fit neatly in a TV window. The game ended at 5:11 P.M., exactly two hours after it began. It’s not clear what the NBA will take from that, but given the flow of the game, it could fit more neatly into a 2.5-hour window.

Notes on the night:

  • Jerome Jordan’s making this team. Jordan’s played exceptionally well for an end-of-bench big, and kept the streak going with a beautiful spin-and-slam, following it up with a block on the defensive end and a tip-in basket on the next possession. Jordan carried the Nets through a close fourth quarter with his scoring in the paint, With the Nets needing depth in the event of future injury to their big men, Jordan fills a need in the paint and has earned his roster spot.

  • Jordan aside, the Nets struggled mightily in the paint: oversized Celtics forward Jared Sullinger rebounded like there were two of him, and the Nets were outscored heartily in the paint and on second-chance points. Missing Kevin Garnett makes a big difference, but Brook Lopez isn’t filling the rebounding gap when healthy. These Nets may project as the worst-rebounding team in the league.

  • Not a pretty game for Brooklyn’s European players: Bojan Bogdanovic and Mirza Teletovic both struggled with their outside shot, and Andrei Kirilenko looked off-balance on a couple of possessions.

  • Deron Williams is fast, I would say, faster than most human beings. Other than one egregious airball in the second half, Williams looked strong.
  • Great decision-making in the first half by Jarrett Jack, who looked to pass first and still ended up with 15 first-half points.