February 21, 2019

D’Angelo Russell scores 34 points to help the Nets defeat the Celtics; the victory also snaps the Nets’ 10-game losing streak against the Celtics

Is it too early to cue up the music, “Movin’ on Up,” the theme song from the 1970s – 1980s sitcom, The Jeffersons? Perhaps, but to Brooklyn Nets fans, it sure does feel good to be one game away from reaching the .500 mark and to still be in contention for an NBA playoff spot.

NBA Playoff Watch: The Brooklyn Nets are now in the seventh spot in the NBA Eastern Conference (The Boston Celtics are currently in the fifth spot).

“We don’t really talk about it as a team,” Jarrett Allen said about the Nets currently in an NBA Playoff spot. “It’s obviously something on all of our minds that we want to make it, but it’s never that ‘oh, let’s make it.’ It’s never spoken out loud, but we all know what we have to do.”

We hear you, Jarrett Allen, but people who follow the Nets, are talking about it and not necessarily in hush tones because the upward trajectory of the Nets so far this season has taken many by surprise.

Last night, the Nets defeated the Boston Celtics 109-102 at home at the Barclays Center and in so doing, the Nets improved to 22-23 overall and 12-11 at Barclays Center, while the Celtics fell to 25-18 overall and 10-13 on the road with this loss. The Nets have also won five straight home games, which is a big deal for the Nets since it is the first time since the 2014-15 season (March 27 – April 6, 2015) that the Nets have won five consecutive games at home more evidence that the Nets are turning a corner.

This victory also snapped the Nets’ 10-game losing streak against the Celtics, which had marked the team’s longest active losing streak against any opponent. The last time Nets won a game against the Celtics it was three years ago on January 2, 2016, in Boston, for those of you who may be keeping score.

Last night’s win was not without some bumps in the road. The Nets ended the third quarter with a 24-point lead (90-66) and that wasn’t the largest lead of the night. The Nets had a 27-point advantage over the Celtics at 9:33 in the fourth quarter on a Spencer Dinwiddie 26' 3-point pull-up shot, but over the course of the last stanza, the Nets lead started slipping eventually getting to only seven points at 1:28 on a Jaylen Brown driving finger roll layup. Over the course of the closing seconds, the Nets were up by nine, up by seven, up by nine, and eventually ending the game at 109-102.

Of course, the media wanted to get Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson’s take on the Nets defensive breakdown in the fourth quarter.

“It speaks to how good they are,” coach Atkinson said regarding the Boston Celtics’ surge in the fourth. “We know it is coming. You’re not beating that team by 30 – you could but considering we haven’t beaten them since I’ve been here. I also think we played eight guys and that’s part of it. I think there was some fatigue. Sure, there’s things we can get better at. I’m going to talk to our 22-year-old point guard about being a little more secure with the ball. But overall, we hung on and closed it out.”

The Nets’ 22-year-old point guard, D’Angelo Russell, posted a game-high-tying 34 points (13-of-26 FG, 7-of-13 3FG, 1-of-2 FT) with five rebounds, a game-high seven assists, one steal and one block in 37 minutes. Russell scored 18 of his 34 points in the third quarter.

Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens had his eye on Russell.

“…The (Celtics) third-quarter defense was awful,” Stevens said. “Obviously, Brooklyn scored 44 in the quarter and D’Angelo Russell got going. We didn’t get a stop or a rebound for the first four minutes of the quarter. You’re not going to win games when you start the quarter like that in what was a back-and-forth, tougher, more physical game that we just couldn’t make a shot in the first half. But for whatever reason, our third quarter defense was not there. We (Celtics) went on a drought and Brooklyn just blew us out of the water…”

Still feeling good about his accomplishment in last night’s game against the Celtics, Russell told the media what it took for him to go on his scoring roll in the third quarter.

In a word, “Confidence,” Russell said. “I mean, I trust my craft. My teammates like I said they put me in the position to do that. They’re finding me when we have the hot hand, but once again I trust my craft and I know what I’m capable of.”

So, those of you who doubted D’Angelo Russell’s abilities and belief in himself, take note.

Looking at other Nets starters who were scoring leaders last night, Rodions Kurucs, a Nets rookie who has surprised everyone with his skills, totaled 19 points, four rebounds, and two steals in 33 minutes. Jarrett Allen also recorded 19 points with 12 rebounds and four blocks in 33 minutes. Joe Harris tallied 13 points, eight rebounds, and three assists in 35 minutes.

Coming off the bench for the Nets, DeMarre Carroll posted his second double-double of the season with 10 points and a career-high 14 rebounds in 33 minutes.

For the Boston Celtics, Jayson Tatum had a game-high-tying 34 points, five rebounds, three assists, three blocked shots, and one steal. Jaylen Brown scored 22 points, six rebounds, and two steals. Brad Wanamaker, who came off the bench for Boston, chipped in 13 points, four assists, three rebounds, and two steals.

Both teams are really going to have to put on their big boy pants tomorrow as they both face formidable teams. The Celtics square off against the Toronto Raptors at home at the Boston Garden. The Brooklyn Nets travel to Houston to play the Rockets, also tomorrow, and then on to Orlando to play the Magic on Friday, January 18, 2019. The Nets will then return home to play the Sacramento Kings on Monday, January 21, 2019, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at 3:30 p.m. at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Without D’Angelo Russell, the Nets leading scorer, the Boston Celtics defeat the Brooklyn Nets 109-102

Returning from a West coast swing, Tuesday night at the Barclays Center was the Nets first game at home in 14 days, and they were without leading scorer, D’Angelo Russell who is suffering from a left knee contusion. He was hurt in the loss to the Utah Jazz on Saturday night.

As good as the Celtics are, this wasn’t a game where Boston was out front for the entirety and Brooklyn was trying to play catch up all night. The Celtics started 7 of 9 from the field to lead 17-4, and ended the first quarter 30-21. However, the Nets jumped ahead in the second quarter and countered every time Boston threatened to pull away until the final minutes. Ultimately, the Celtics won their 13th straight victory, defeating the Nets 109-102.

What made the difference in tonight’s game for the Celtics?

“I thought, obviously, answering Brooklyn’s runs,” responded Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “You knew they (Nets) were going to come out and the first part we played great but we didn’t sustain it through probably the next two quarters. But then we mustered up enough at the end of the third to get a lead that went quick, which if you watch Brooklyn play that happens all the time. They do a great job of continuing to grind on you and making it as tough as possible. And they come back a lot. You knew it was going to be tough. I thought our group, once it got settled, played pretty well. ”

In the metrics that mattered, Boston out-rebounded Brooklyn 59-48 and the Nets 62.5 free throw percentage was abysmal compared to the Celtics’ 81.5 percent.

Joe Harris, the Nets three-point specialist, led Nets scorers with 19 points and described the Nets deficiencies against the Celtics.

“A lot of times bad shots offensively can make it really tough on your defense and I think that was a little bit of what happened to us,” Harris explained. “When we don’t play together and when we don’t play with the pass, a lot of times we take difficult shots and a lot of times that’s very similar to a turnover and they’re able to get in a good offense off of tough shots that we were taking.”

“I thought we had a lot of periods where we were really good moving it (the ball),” said Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson. “I thought Caris (LeVert) gave us a big boost. He really came in and he’s able to break down the switches when they do switch so he can go by guys, go by their bigs when they do switch. But overall, first half we had 15 assists. I’m not sure what we ended up with, 27? So that’s good news for us. That’s higher than our season average so a lot of positives. Obviously frustrated with the result but they’re an excellent team. They have a lot of talent, a lot of athletic talent that you saw on display tonight.”

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson scored 16 points and nine rebounds for the Nets; while Allen Crabbe and Caris LeVert added 15 points apiece. Spencer Dinwiddie totaled 12 points, a career-high-tying 11 assists (with just one turnover), four rebounds and one block in his third start of the season tonight.

For Boston, Kyrie Irving, who wore a facial mask all night because of a facial fracture, led all scorers with 25 points. Irving suffered a facial fracture in Boston's win over the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night. Marcus Morris scored 21 points and 10 rebounds for the Celtics, Al Horford led the Celtics in rebounding with 11 boards, and Jayson Tatum added 19 points.

Next up, Boston meets up with the Golden State Warriors in Boston on Thursday night, while the Nets host the Utah Jazz on Friday at the Barclays Center.

Celtics’ Crowder's Big Night Dooms Nets; Shane Larkin Stumbles in Starting Role in Jarrett Jack’s Absence

As the temperature drops in Brooklyn so has the climate surrounding the Brooklyn Nets. On Saturday in a win against the Boston Celtics, 100-97, the Nets lost their starting point guard Jarrett Jack for the remainder of the season, to a torn ACL which he suffered late in the third quarter. On a freezing Monday night in Brooklyn, the Boston Celtics took advantage of Jack’s absence and just added to what has become a miserable season for the Barclays Center’s only professional basketball club.

The Celtics' Jae Crowder and all of his dreads scored a team-high 25 points and six rebounds, leading the C’s to a 103-94 victory over the Nets, winning the other half of the home-and-home series. Crowder started his big night as early as the first quarter, scoring 14 points which helped facilitate the Celtics (19-15) in creating distance, ending the first 12 mins of the game with a 37-22 lead. Despite his strong start, the play’s Crowder made towards the end of the game hurt the Nets (10-24) the most and proved to be the deciding factor in the games result.

When the Nets made their attempts to threaten the Celtics dominance in this game, as well as their chance at winning, Crowder answered the bell. Joe Johnson, who did a little bit of everything scoring 21 points with six rebounds and four assists, drained a big eight-foot jump shot with three mins left in the 4th which cut the Celtics lead to five, 90-85. In response, Crowder sinks a long-range bomb, increasing the C’s lead to eight, 93-85 with a little under three mins left in the final quarter.

“He’s hit big shots for us all year,” Celtics Head Coach Brad Stevens said reflecting on Crowder. “He’s not afraid of the moment and he stepped up.”

A minute later, the Nets would find themselves needing a stop, trailing by six, 95-89 and there was Crowder again, making the Nets pay-converting a driving layup and an and-1 to put the C’s up for good 98-89. And for the exclamation point, the Celtics next two points highlighted Marcus Smart, who drove to the rim with a minute left in the 4th and added a beautiful-acrobatic-reverse layup, avoiding Brook Lopez, which put the C’s up by nine, 100-91.

Late game execution continues to be a problem for the Nets but there is no doubt that Lionel Hollins and co. did not get off to the start that they would have hoped to. In the 1st quarter alone, the Nets committed eight turnovers which led to 10 Celtics points.

“We turned the ball over a lot, and that got them out on the open court kind of playing the game at their pace and so, obviously, it’s tough to put yourself in that position and come back from it,” Brook Lopez said post-game, scoring 19 points to the Nets cause.

Fortunately for the Celtics, their strong start was enough to propel them to the win, as their first quarter alone was more points than the Nets could ever rival throughout their entire game. To their credit, the Nets did outscore the C’s in every quarter following the 1st, but the damage was done.

“We just couldn’t make enough plays to get all the way back,” a disappointed Hollins said post-game. Hollins also does not want to associate the Nets lack of ball-control to the loss of Jack, stating that “there is always a rationalization for anything bad that happens” and simply, “we have to keep working and get better.”

In Jack’s place, Shane Larkin assumed the starting role and didn’t have the most dazzling performance like his counterpart, Isaiah Thomas, who added 19 points and seven assists, the second leading scorer on the C’s.

Larkin struggled to create for himself and for his teammates, ending his night with four points, two assists while criticizing his lack of aggressiveness to his low production.

“I’ve just got to go out there and play my game and stop thinking so much and just play,” Larkin said post-game. “I’ve shown I can do it. I’ve had great games this year, I’ve had not so good games this year. I’ve just got to stay being aggressive and just be consistent for my team and it’ll be better for sure.”

Larkin’s comments could be the theme of the Nets profile as a team this year. One of the few bright spots on the Nets continues to be the play of Thaddeus Young who chipped in a double-double, 23 and 15 rebounds to lead all Nets scorers. Jack's injury will force the Nets to take turns being the playmaker, especially in the backcourt, which could result in Johnson handling the ball a little more and tonight was a perfect example of that.

The Nets will host the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night at 7:30 pm.

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