By Patrick Whalen
Coming off a brutal loss to the Golden State Warriors the Celtics got back into action Monday night against the surprise upstart Brooklyn Nets. The Nets entered the Garden on a 6 game win streak that actually began two weeks ago with their win over the Celtics. On the season the Celtics have a 1-1 record against their divisional foes with a 21 point win at home and 7 point loss on the road, both taking place in just this past month. The Celtics were without Kyrie Irving as he was out for the second time in the last three games with a left hip issue which of course means that Terry Rozier would be inserted into the starting lineup. The Nets meanwhile have still been plagued by the injury bug with Allen Crabbe, Spencer Dinwiddie, Jared Dudley, Allan Williams, and Caris LeVert all out with various injuries.
The Celtics looked to jump out to a hot start but without Kyrie it was uncertain who would be the man to get them off to that start offensively. It was infact the newest NBA sharpshooter Marcus Smart as he scored 11 points in the first quarter alone. Smart would finsih the night tied for a team high with 21 points on 7-15 shooting with 7 assists and 5 steals. The Cobra was on fire all night at both ends of the floor.
Thanks to Smart’s great first quarter the Celtics jumped out to a 32-26. Another key part to the Celtics great first half was Jaylen Brown bringing offense off the bench. Jaylen tied Smart for the team high of 21 points on 9-16 shooting with rebounds in 32 minutes off the bench. Brown was also adding to his highlight reel with another big time dunk.
The Celtics third leading scorer also came form off the bench but it wasn’t the man you would expect. Aron Baynes went for 16 points and 6 rebounds in just 21 minutes off the bench. Baynes was even showing off his new three point shot that he added this season as he got the Garden fired up early with one.
With those three players stepping up in Kyries absence the Celtics took a 60-50 lead into the half. But the Nets came out firing in the third which has been a problem all year for the Celtics. The Nets out scored the Celtics 38-29 in the third to cut the lead down to just 1 going into the fourth quarter. But thanks to some of the other Celtics starters stepping up the Celts were able to pull out the 112-104 win. Marcus Morris seemed to get back on track as he finished with 15 points on 6-13 shooting with 8 rebounds. Terry Rozier stepped up in Kyrie’s absence with 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists. Al Horford also continued his stretch of good play with another double double as he finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Horford stuffed the whole stat sheet as he also chipped in 5 assists and had a 6 blocks and one stare down.
The Celtics defense was the key to holding onto the win as they forced 17 turnovers. The defense also had 11 steals and 16 blocks. Yes, 16 BLOCKS! Despite the loss though the Nets still had some good performances to keep the game close. D’Angelo Russell had 25 points on 10-20 shooting as he continued to show his star scoring potential that the Lakers saw back when they drafted him. Local UConn product Shabazz Napier had 20 points and 5 assists off the bench in 26 minutes. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson got his first action against the Celtics this year and had 14 points and 9 rebounds. But the Celtics defense stymied the Nets in the fourth quarter allowing just 16 points.
With the win the Celtics are now 31-19 on the season and still sit 5 games back of the Raptors for first in the east. Up next the Celtics will finish off their five game homestand on Wednesday night against the Charlotte Hornets. The Celtics are 1-1 so far this season against the Hornets with a 5 point loss on the road back in November and a 16 point win at home back in December. The Celtics will need to limit the damage that Kemba Walker can do if they want to get a win. Sadly Kyrie will be out again for this matchup so we will not be able to see the eastern conference all star backcourt duo battle it out in Boston. But hopefully the Celtics can get a win here against the Hornets and finish this homestand off at 4-1 and extend their home dominace.
Also just cause Kyrie is in doesn’t mean that you can’t keep voting. Hit the link below and try and help guys like Jayson Tatum and Al Horford join Kyrie in Charlotte for this years All Star weekend.