By Patrick Whalen
The Celtics came into Brooklyn Monday night looking to bounce back after back to back tough losses down in the state of Florida. The Celtics have played only one game against their division rivals which was actually last Monday at the TD Garden where the Celtics took home a 116-95 win to stretch their New Years win streak to three straight. The Celtics were looking to bounce back in this one and at least finish this poor three game road trip off with a win. But of course they would have to do it with some missing pieces. Aron Baynes is nearing return but still nursing his broke left hand, Kyrie Irving sat out due to a nagging quad injury, and Mrcus Smart was out with an illness. This meant as usual Brad Stevens would have to shuffle the line up with his starting backcourt out, so Brad decided that Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown would be the starting backcourt to go along with the usual Tatum, Morris, and Horford combo. Al Horford was also still on a 25 minute restriction. The Nets were without 6 players in their last meeting and the injury bug still had them as Allen Crabbe, Jared Dudley, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Caris Lavert were all out, but they were able to get Joe Harris back who was out in last weekend contest.
With Kyrie out someone had to carry the load on the offensive end for the Celtics and it was the second year man out of Duke that did just that. Jayson Tatum went for a career high 34 points on 12-19 shooting from the floor with 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 blocks to cap off his career night. He was scoring in all ways tonight even showing off the left hand drive to finish off the first half.
Jaylen Brown also stepped up in Kyries absence with 22 points on 9-18 shooting with 6 rebounds. He even showed off his great athleticism with a vicious left handed slam in the fourth quarter.
Surprisingly the Celtics only had one other scorer in double digits and it was an unlikely hero off the bench in Brad Wanamaker. Yes, that Brad Wanamaker. Wanamaker had 13 points and 4 assists off the bench for the Celtics in what easily was his best NBA game performance yet.
Meanwhile the rest of the Celtics forgot how shoot apparently. Terry Rozier, who usually balls out in Kyries absence and makes some people question if we should start him over Irving, shot just 3-12 for 7 points. Marcus Morris, who I have been running an All Star campaign for, was just 3-11 for 8 points. Gordon Hayward was just 1-6 for 3 points. Al Horford had just 8 points but only took 5 shots and played 20 minutes. In fact if you take out Tatum and Browns numbers the Celtics shot just 16-54 (29.6%) from the floor and would have scored just 46 points.
If it weren’t for the Nets playing only 8 players the victory margin could have been potentially even bigger. The Nets as a team did not shot lights out either, just 43% from the floor, but their starters out performed the Celtics as the Nets had four players in double figures led by D’Angelo Russell. Russell went off for 34 points on 13-26 shooting including 7-13 from downtown. Russell also had 7 assists and 5 rebounds to go with the great shooting night. Rodions Kurucs who led the Nets last week in scoring continued his solid play with 19 points on 7-11 shooting. The Nets young center Jarrett Allen also had 19 points to go with 12 rebounds. Joe Harris made his impact felt after missing last weeks matchup as he went for 13 points and 8 rebounds. DeMarre Carroll also had a big night off the bench with 10 points and 14 rebounds.
Not only did the Celtics shoot themselves in the foot with their poor shooting but they also got dominated on the glass. The Nets outrebounded the Celtics a whopping 55-41. The Celtics also only got 10 offensive rebounds on the night. Litterally the only thing that kept the Celtics in the game towards the end was the fact that they forced 17 turnovers by the Nets.
This game just capped off a very openly frustrating road trip for both the players and the fans. At the begining of the year most would look at this stretch and think at worst the Celtics would win 2 of the 3 games. But this has been the story this year that with how inconsistent this team has been that these games we thought would be easy cake walks for the Celtics are actually games they need to work hard to win. Up next the Celtics will have the number one team in the east coming to town in the Toronto Raptors. The great news for the Celtics is that one they are going home to the Garden where they’ve won their last 6 in a row and two Kyrie, Smart, and even Aron Baynes may be avaliable to play in the big game matchup. Baynes potential return could be the boost the Celtics need when it comes to defense and rebounding. Baynes’ gives the Celtics that much needed big man that can matchup size wise with any other center in the league and also will help the Celtics with the rebounding greatly. Baynes’ return also means that they can spread Horfords minutes out more to protect his knee while not forcing miss matches. If all three could be back it would be huge for this eastern conference clash.
Also don’t forget to keep voting for all your favorite Celtics for this years All Star festivities. Hit the link below and help send as many of our guys to Charlotte as we can.
Sources: Basketball-Reference.com Rotoballer.com