Boston Celtics 87-85 Brooklyn Nets: Three Takeaways

BROOKLYN – The Nets undefeated run in 2018 came to a heartbreaking end as they couldn’t finish out a nail-biter against the Celtics.

Brooklyn seemingly improved in all of the areas that plagued it in the previous two games of the season series. Spencer Dinwiddie managed to end his struggles against Boston as he poured in 20 points. The team led after the opening 12 minutes, holding Boston to just 16 points – a season-low in points allowed in the first quarter. Yet, it still wasn’t enough to contain Kyrie Irving, who scored a game-high 21 points.

It’s a gut-wrenching result for the home team, which wasn’t helped by some questionable decisions by the officiating crew in the second half. Dinwiddie vented his frustrations at what he saw as uneven calls after the defeat.

“This game was very physical and there were not a lot of calls [for us],” Dinwiddie said before later adding, “To see the same type of respect not reciprocated is very frustrating.”

Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson understood why Dinwiddie was upset, but urged his point guard to move on.

“I know he’s frustrated – he didn’t get some calls but I think over the course of the year that pans out.”

The Nets fall to 0-3 against the Boston this season, with the series finale schedule for the closing day of the NBA regular season, April 11.

Here are Three Observations From the Game:

Great First Half, Heart-Breaking Second Half

The Nets were in control during the first 24 minutes, leading by nine with two minutes remaining in the second quarter, but it was ultimately the third quarter that proved costly against the visitors. Irving shot just 36 percent in the game, but he and Jayson Tatum came alive in the second half. The pair combined for 13 points, sparking a 13-2 run for the Celtics. While Brooklyn limited the damage by fighting back, only being outscored by five in the quarter, the momentum clearly shifted towards Boston.

Still, the young Nets deserve credit for going toe-to-toe with the Eastern Conference leaders in the fourth quarter. It was game that came down to final possession as Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had two opportunities to force overtime, but couldn’t convert from both mid-range and under the rim. Atkinson acknowledged this was a tough result to take, yet he believes it could be another step in the right direction for his team.

“We had our chances and that’s all you can ask against an excellent team,” Atkinson said after the game. “We didn’t close like we did the other night [against Minnesota], but I thought the effort was outstanding by our guys, our defense.”

He added, “I told the guys after the game, I said ‘We keep it there, we’re in a good way and we’ll win a lot more games than people think.’ I just hope we can continue that consistency.”

Dinwiddie Shines Against the East’s Top Team

Dinwiddie hadn’t shot well against the Boston in the first two games of the season series, averaging 10 points on just 30 percent shooting. On Saturday night, he responded as he was Brooklyn’s leading scorer with 20 points on 7-for-15 shooting. More importantly, he was effective at attacking the rim – an area that Atkinson has called on him to improve upon.

“To me, Spencer is elite when he gets to the rim,” the head coach said in his pregame press conference. “He’s an elite athlete and he finishes well. So we’d like to see more of that.”

Dinwiddie efficient approach saw him get five free-throw attempts against Boston, an increase from his average of 2.9 on the season. Similar to game against Minnesota, he came alive in the fourth quarter, scoring six of his final total within the last seven minutes of the game. Atkinson praised the point guard’s shot selection after the game.

“Love it, Yeah, keep attacking, keep attacking the rim.”

Jahlil Okafor Shows Progress

The 22-year-old center finished with second double-digit game, scoring 12 points and adding five rebounds in his third appearance for Brooklyn. He was clearly more confident in his second game at Barclays Center as a Net.

“We played really hard and I tried to do my part to do the same,” Okafor said after the game. “We lost a tough game, but it’s another step in the right direction for myself and the team.”

When Atkinson announced that Okafor would be a part of the team’s rotation, he mentioned that the No. 3 pick of the 2015 draft would need to show improvement in the small doses that he gets. Okafor only got two additional minutes from the 11 he played on Wednesday but he was more effective this time around. He acknowledged he was trying to be more impactful against the Celtics.

“The guys in the locker room encourage me and supported me to try to attack, whether that means scoring or making a play for them. When your teammates believe in you, it makes it a lot easier, especially when they’re telling you to score, attack and be aggressive.”