One week after the Brooklyn Nets were absolutely trounced by the Celtics on the road in Boston — without DeMarre Carroll and Joe Harris, mind you — the black and white got a rematch opportunity. With the Celtics ahead of them in both the division standings and the playoff push, a vengeful victory would go a far way toward reversing their fortunes. But Boston, fueled by one of the league’s best head coaches and defenses, are no easy out — even without Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart.
Early on, the Nets, at the very least, did better than the previous meeting. Hardworking as always, Brooklyn continued to earn high-percentage shots and D’Angelo Russell sparked up from the get-go. His 15 points led either side in the first half, while Jarrett Allen and Spencer Dinwiddie provided the much-needed edge with their starting point guard on the bench. Without Smart and Irving, the Celtics called upon the lesser known Brad Wannamaker to provide a punch and the former European standout picked up the slack. Despite shooting just 31 percent over the opening two quarters as a team, Wannamaker’s eight unexpected points kept the Celtics right in it.
Still, the Nets did well to hang with the conference royalty — although they’d need a much strong, less sloppy second half to pull out the final result. The only two players that featured for Brooklyn to not record a turnover were Ed Davis and Treveon Graham through 24 minutes — which, if you were to guess head coach Kenny Atkinson’s take on the matter, was not great. 11 first-half turnovers are bad against anybody — but versus the Celtics, they’re awful lucky it wasn’t a killing blow.
Thankfully, the second half brought more of the same from their growing asset as Russell was heat-checking with success well into the quarter. This time, with some beautiful support from Rodions Kurucs, the Nets’ lead ballooned to double-digits. Poor Terry Rozier, who was called upon in Irving’s absence, struggled from the field and failed to contain Russell at all. Russell, on just an absolutely stupid heater, took the Nets on a big 15-0 run to break this game open, much to the enjoyment of the dancing bench mob.
There were other players in this game, but it barely mattered: Russell was that damn good. While Jayson Tatum helped the Celtics stay alive, the Nets buried 44 points on the visitor’s heads in the third quarter — 90-66. Just as everybody expected, right?
In the fourth, it was not the same red-hot affair on repeat but the Nets managed to hold off a cruising Celtics comeback attempt. Dinwiddie, in the midst of a mini-slump, earned a technical foul with three minutes and a 24-7 extended run for Boston left the lead at just 11. Tatum, 34 points, was Boston’s only excellent contributor of the game — and it almost was enough.
A few later turnovers — partly due to an insane uptick in defense from Boston — took the dimming lead all the way down to seven points. Despite the Nets’ best effort to lose a 25-point cushion, time just ran out for the Celtics. On another day, one in which the Celtics didn’t wait 45 minutes to start executing, the Nets probably would’ve let it slip away entirely. Fortunately, that’s not what matters.
Ultimately, the only thing that matters is the score at the final buzzer — Nets 109, Celtics 102. Victors in nine of the last 10 at home and official streak-snapper of 10-straight losses against Boston — that’s one for the 2019 record books, folks.
Take a bow, D’Angelo, this performance may have been your magnum opus yet.
The stats: 34 PTS, 13-26 FG, 7-13 3PT, 5 REB, 7 AST, 5 TO
More often than not recently, D’Angelo Russell has acted as the guiding light the Nets desperately needs. Not only has Russell been performing as Brooklyn’s best player, but it was also such a major upgrade on the disappointing outing last week versus Boston.
While his 15 first-half points were brilliant, his third quarter was absolutely miraculous. Chucking from all over the floor with reckless abandon, Russell was a cold-blooded killer. A Nets’ one-point lead exploded to a 26-point margin when all was said and done — that alone was thanks to Russell.
There were other players in the game, it bears repeating, of course, but it barely mattered. When he plays like this, Russell looks like a bonafide future All-Star, end of discussion.
The stats: 19 PTS, 5-9 FG, 12 REB, 4 BLK, 3 TOS
A double-double with three blocks — yeah, that’ll do.
With Clint Capela out against the Nets on Wednesday, it was crucial for Allen to get off to a great start. Versus the hulking Al Horford, Allen rolled to the rim, finished strong, and grabbed boards all night. He was the Nets’ second-best player — the perfect Robin to Russell’s Batman.
The stats: 13 PTS, 4-10 FG, 1-6 3PT, 8 REB, 3 AST
Joe Harris was Joe Harris.
Even though he didn’t pour it in from deep, as usual, Harris smartly cut for easy buckets, played strong defense, and got into some high-percentage spots all night. Harris finished with a plus-10 in the box score, proving yet again that he can contribute in many ways beyond just the three-point line.
The stats: 19 PTS, 7-11 FG, 4 REB, 2 STL
Boy, he works hard, doesn’t he?
Whenever you need him to be, Rodions Kurucs has the uncanny ability to pop up right then and there. For example, he zipped in to tap back a Carroll three-point airball as the final buzzer expired in the third quarter. The league’s been on notice for some time, but at this rate, Kurucs may just end up in Charlotte next month for the Rising Stars competition.
The stats: 10 PTS, 2-15 FG, 14 REB, 2 AST
DeMarre Carroll may have shot poorly from the field, but he did the necessary dirty work against a stout Boston side. As the Celtics tried to storm back in the fourth quarter, Carroll’s savvy veteran nature slowed the game down and ensured that the Nets would see things out.