The Boston Celtics hosted the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night in a matchup between two teams reversing the fortunes of their season, with the Nets shrugging off a 2-3 start to claim the Eastern Conference lead at 13-5 while the Celtics entered play riding an 8-3 streak of their own. The two teams felt miles apart once play began, however, as the Celtics fell behind early and trailed by as many as 29 points en route to a 123-104 defeat.
The Celtics simply couldn’t find consistent scoring tonight. Marcus Smart led the team with 20 points, but the duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined to shoot just 9-of-31 from the field and the team as a whole connected on just 11 of their 47 three-point attempts. On the other side of things, the Nets seemingly couldn’t miss, with Patty Mills (23), Kevin Durant (21) and James Harden (20) all breaking the 20-point threshold and the team combining to hit 41% of their attempts from deep.
The Nets set the tone from the tip, controlling the game offensively in the first quarter. Patty Mills (starting for the injured Joe Harris) hit three quick three-pointers in his first shift on the court, and Durant’s customary elite shot-making took over from there, as he scored 10 in the quarter. The Celtics, meanwhile, struggled to find the bottom of the net. Tatum and Brown combined to shoot just 1-of-6 from the field in the first, and they headed into the second quarter trailing 29-22.
The game quickly spiraled into dangerous territory in the early minutes of the second quarter. The Nets ripped out a 10-2 run, including a fourth triple from Mills, to build a 40-25 lead, prompting a quick timeout from Ime Udoka. As a whole, the second quarter was emblematic of the disparity in three-point shooting between the two teams, with the Nets hitting one more three than the Celtics in the first half despite 13 fewer attempts. Boston managed to keep pace with Brooklyn for the rest of the quarter, but the lead remained in double-digits, as they entered the halftime break trailing 62-49.
Uneven officiating caused frustrations to boil over for the Celtics as they entered the break, as Udoka picked up a technical just after the buzzer. As second half play began, things went from bad to worse, as the Nets continued to cook and opened the third quarter with an 18-3 run. They pushed their lead near 30 points, and held it there for much of the quarter, though a small Boston run cut the lead to 21 heading into the fourth, 97-76.
A small run became a notable one in the early minutes of the fourth, as the Boston run reached 17-0 to cut the Brooklyn lead all the way down to 12. James Johnson cut the run with a layup, Mills connected on a three and the Nets looked to hand the reigns over to Durant to coast the rest of the way to the checkered flag.
However, the Celtics weren’t quite finished yet. Trailing 107-91 with just under six minutes to play, Smart drew a foul on a three-pointer and completed the four-point play at the free throw line, and Romeo Langford hit a two-point jumper on the ensuing possession to cut Brooklyn’s lead to 13. Unfortunately, this would be as close as the Celtics would get. Mills connected on his seventh three-pointer of the night and Harden added a pair of free throws and a three-pointer of his own to put the game out of reach for good.
Next up, the Celtics will hit the road for a Friday night contest against the San Antonio Spurs, at 8:30 PM EST on NBC Sports Boston.
For more postgame coverage of the Celtics’ loss to Brooklyn, tune into the the Garden Report Postgame Show LIVE on CLNS Media right after the game. Join A Sherrod Blakely, Bobby Manning, Josue Pavon, Jimmy Toscano and host John Zannis for a full breakdown.