Here’s what stood out in the Celtics’ win vs. Nets: Struggling to maintain rhythm, Boston finds other ways to win
Based on how the Celtics started the game, you’d think they’d rather spend Sunday watching football than at the Barclays Center.
But then came a surge of energy that led to putting together stops, playing with tempo and staging a 14-0 run to take control.
The Celtics struggled to regain the rhythm they found during that spurt, but they overcame it by playing excellent defense throughout the game.
Although Kevin Durant recorded 31 points, he went 1/5 from beyond the arc, lived off well-contested twos, and he committed eight turnovers. Any opposition will live with that. Boston also limited Kyrie Irving to 18 on 21 shots.
The Celtics, without Marcus Smart or Robert Williams — granted, the latter has been out all season — going to Brooklyn, playing the Nets for the first time since sweeping them, and holding them to 92 points is a testament to the state of both teams.
It may also be Boston’s most complete defensive showing this season. A welcome sign after struggling on that end of the court in back-to-back games against the Heat.
And just as the Celtics needed Jaylen Brown’s game-high 34 points and Jayson Tatum’s 29 to get back into the win column, those 18 points were generated by 15 Brooklyn turnovers.
In a fourth quarter in which neither team produced 30 points, the Nets’ turnovers fueled the visitors’ offense as they closed out the game.
Now, a deep dive into what stood out in the Celtics’ 103-92 victory in Brooklyn.
Celtic’s rise after a slow start to the first picture
Boston got off to a slow start, going down 11-2. But Joe Mazzulla, staying on brand, opted not to take a timeout, again challenging his team to play through a run by the opposition. The Celtics responded 14-0.
As the visitors increased their energy and activity level, they found their rhythm by getting into the paint, creating drive-and-kick opportunities for spot-up shooters.
Boston also did it with off-ball activity, like Derrick White cutting from the weak side wing to the center of the paint, then quickly acting as a connector, swinging the ball to Jaylen Brown for a corner three.
The Celtics also earned several stops in transition to help the run, then went on a 10-3 stretch after the Nets ended their scoring drought.
Boston finished the first quarter with a 35-27 advantage. Brown, who played the entire frame, recorded 20 points on 6/7 shooting, including going 5/5 from beyond the arc. Nor has he committed himself to any sales.
Playing at pace, consistently getting into the paint and keeping the ball moving got the Celtics in a rhythm that allowed them to knock down shots even when Brooklyn stifled initial drives. That translated into shooting 57.1 percent from the field, 8/12 from long range, and assisting on six of 12 field goals. Boston also scored 12 fast break points compared to three for the hosts.
No one on the Nets reached double figures, with Kevin Durant leading Brooklyn with nine points.
The Nets take the Celtics out of rhythm in the third frame
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Like the start of the game, the Celtics played sluggishly to open the second half. The Nets jumped out to an 8-0 run.
The reason for that was a much improved defense from Brooklyn, who applied tighter pressure on the ball, then did an excellent job of sending help to prevent drives from reaching the paint.
It forced Boston to play slower and minimized the damage on drive-and-kicks. It also translated into eight turnovers by the visitors in the third frame.
And while the Celtics don’t like to play at a slower pace, the Nets prefer it. After producing just 13 points in the first half, Kevin Durant began burning Boston from inside the arc, generating 12 points in the quarter.
But outside of Durant, whose shots were well contested, the Celtics cut the water to those around him, limiting Brooklyn to 19 points in the period. Granted, Boston only scored 13.
At least it was enough to take a 75-69 lead into the final frame.
Brooklyn turnovers power Boston’s offense in the fourth quarter
While the Celtics found the open shooter in the weak corner for a pair of fourth-quarter threes, Nets turnovers fueled the visitors’ offense in the final 12 minutes.
That included a 7-0 run with three straight Brooklyn giveaways. There was also a technical on Kyrie Irving, and after Jayson Tatum picked Durant’s pocket at the top of the key, leading to a pair of free throws, Boston had 18 points on 14 turnovers by the hosts.
Leading by nine with 2:39 left, the Celtics went hack-a-Claxton. The ploy worked as he missed both attempts despite Durant challenging him to face the moment.
Tatum then finished the play, screened the off-ball for Brown, then dived to the basket for a layup. He followed up by stripping Durant and finishing with a flush in transition.
Tatum then buried a 27-foot bounce three to give Boston a 101-85 advantage with 1:43 left, prompting both sides to empty their benches.
The Celtics’ road trip takes them north of the border for a game against the Raptors on Monday. The game tips off at 7:30 PM EST. Inside The Celtics will have content related to the game coming out before, during and after. And follow @BobbyKrivitsky on Twitter for updates and analysis from pregame to post.
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