Slow Start Costs Nets vs. Celtics

The Brooklyn Nets were not ready to start on time Monday and it hurt them in the end, as they fell 103-94 to the Boston Celtics at Barclays Center. 

The Nets gave up 37 points in a 37-22 first quarter and despite winning the next three, could not dig themselves out of their early hole. They battled back, getting to within five with three minutes to play, but that’s as close as they came. 

“It was the first quarter that killed us,” said Joe Johnson, who scored 21 points, hitting 20+ points for the second straight game. “I take ownership on the majority of it, as far as turnovers and getting guys the ball in the right spots to make plays and guarding my man defensively. The first quarter put us in the hole, cause throughout the rest of the game, I thought we won.”

The Nets and Celtics were finishing a home-and-home set Monday, with Brooklyn taking Saturday’s game 100-97. They knew Boston was going to make adjustments and come ready to play, but for whatever reason, the Nets didn’t have that same intensity until it was too late. 

“We knew how they were going to start,” said Donald Sloan. “I just don’t think we were ready for it. Once we locked in and revved up our intensity, it was a different game.”

Turnovers were also a factor in the deciding first quarter. The Nets committed eight of their 14 turnovers in the opening 12 minutes to which the Celtics scored 10 points. 

“We have to do a better job of taking care of the ball,” Shane Larkin said. 

Despite shooting 37.6% from the field, the Nets were in a position to win the game in the fourth. They turned a 15-point deficit into a seven-point deficit with a 16-8 run at the end of the third quarter and into the start of the fourth. The Celtics, who shot 30.4% in the fourth, could never quite pull away from the Nets, despite leading by double-digits in the entire second and third quarter. 

“We battled back after the first quarter and outscored them in every quarter,” head coach Lionel Hollins said. “We just couldn’t make enough plays to get all the way back.” 

It didn’t help that Isaiah Thomas was at his most productive in the fourth, scoring 7 of his 19 points in the final quarter. Jae Crowder was a thorn in the Nets’ side all night, scoring a game-high – and career-high – 25 points. 

“Jae Crowder had a big game for them and Isaiah Thomas, every time we play him he has a big game,” Hollins said. 

The Nets frontcourt had another productive game, as Johnson (21), Brook Lopez (19) and Thaddeus Young (23) combined for 63 points. Bojan Bogdanovic scored 12 and added 12 boards for his first-career double-double, but was also 0-for-7 from three. 

With Jarrett Jack sidelined for the rest of the season with a torn right ACL, Larkin and Sloan split point guard duties for the Nets on Monday. Larkin started the game and finished with four points and two assist in 26:45. Sloan scored five and had three assists in 21:29. 

Monday’s game was the fourth and final meeting between the Nets and Celtics this season, with the teams splitting the season series. The Nets face another Atlantic Division opponent on Wednesday, when they welcome the Toronto Raptors to Barclays Center. Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m.