On Saturday, Brook Lopez annihilated everything the Celtics threw at him en route to 30 points. Tonight? Brook Lopez was effectively neutralized by not-so-renowned defensive duo of Amir Johnson and Tyler Zeller,
Tonight’s regular season finale against the Boston Celtics presented a couple of fun opportunities for the Nets: take three out of four from the division rivals that own your future and, more importantly, learn about life without Jarrett Jack. Following Jack’s ACL tear on Saturday, Brook Lopez called it devastating and they certainly looked the part back home in Brooklyn. In fact, they struggled to even move the basketball without error early, racking up 8 turnovers and a 15-point deficit by the end of the first.
The second brought a tad more consistency and, at the very least, some better protection of the ball, but the story was much of the same. Boston played far closer to their norm, exhibiting fantastic ball movement and unselfish play while the Nets slumped and stopped hitting the tough shots they made Saturday, stagnating on offense in the process. The second half brought more entry passes to Lopez as the big man did his best (but frantic) impression of his last game’s thrashing, but it was not enough to drag them out of that first quarter hole.
In Boston, if you’ll recall, Jack recorded 7 assists in the first 12 minutes — tonight, the Nets’ leader in assists was Joe Johnson at 4. Shane Larkin and Donald Sloan, the pair of point guards tasked with replacing Jack’s usual contributions, finished with 5 combined. In Boston, Lopez made 11 shots, tonight he took just 14. In Boston, the Nets shot a miserable 3-18 from three and tonight finished 6-28, including a downright dismal 1-15 combined from Bojan Bodanovic and Wayne Ellington.
So, in the simplest terms, an OK basketball team that played slightly above average in Boston regressed to the mean once again. After that 37-22 battering in the first, the Nets executed some half-decent offense, but they couldn’t the shorten gap thanks to some generous matador defense from nearly all the aforementioned participants.
At the end of the day, these games don’t matter too much, but it would’ve been a little victory in a season of big losses to win three of four against the Celtics.
The stats: 19 PTS, 6-14 FG%, 5 RBS, 1 AST, 1 BLK, 3 TOs
The reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week racked up 4 points and 3 rebounds in the first half on just 4 shots, so that is obviously not ideal.
On the other side of the half, the Nets made a more concerted effort to get Lopez the ball, but the Celtics frequently doubled, crashed, and made his life a living hell. While he finished with 19 points, he was not nearly big enough of a focal point for team that needs his scoring prowess each night. Most of that struggle can be credited to Brad Stevens’ renewed strategies, but there needs to be more imagination from all parties on the Brooklyn side in the future.