BOSTON – Throughout the course of this season, the Boston Celtics will learn plenty of lessons about itself.
Sometimes it takes time to sift through the nuances of a game and figure out what should be extrapolated from it.
Following Wednesday’s 122-117 it-should-have-never-been-that-close victory over the Brooklyn Nets, there was no mistaking the Celtics came away feeling as though they survived a game in which they let up too soon and allowed a scrappy Nets team to make it more of a game than it should have been.
After Tyler Zeller drained an 18-foot jumper with 7:36 to play, Boston held a commanding 112-89 lead.
Brooklyn went on a 28-8 run to make it a one-possession game with 6.8 seconds to play.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens explained the late-game collapse afterwards.
“We started shooting bad shots and not guarding and throwing it to the other team,” Stevens said. “It’s how quickly it can change; we all know that.”
Because Boston had such a commanding lead and they were opening the season with a back-to-back with a Thursday night game at Chicago, it made sense for Stevens to give his core guys a chance to rest in the fourth quarter.
“I was hopeful not to have to put those guys back in but I probably went a little bit longer than I normally would have, not doing that,” Stevens said. “So we’ve got to play better in that moment.”
Boston’s Jae Crowder acknowledged he and Boston’s other starters were not as locked in as they should have been when Stevens put them back in the game with 2:07 to play.
“We had checked out a little bit mentally and physically,” Crowder said. “Our bodies were not warmed up enough to do what we did. But we got it done. We’re just going to learn from it and move on to Chicago.”
Said Horford: “That’s the NBA sometimes; it’ll humble you. It’s a good learning experience for our group.”
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s season-opening win over Brooklyn Wednesday night.
He was there when the Celtics needed him most, making a pair of free throws with 1.9 seconds to play that sealed the victory. He finished with a game-high 23 points and nearly had a double-double with nine assists to go with six rebounds and two steals.
Crowder set the tone in the first quarter, and it was his shot-making early in the third that led Boston to being well-positioned for victory. He would finish with 21 points on 9-for-15 shooting to go with five rebounds two assists, two steals and a blocked shot.
His 3-point shooting in the second half was a major key to Brooklyn’s rally to within just three points. He led Brooklyn with 21 points on 9-for-17 shooting.
He doesn’t put up the sexiest, eye-grabbing numbers, but Horford’s steady play continues to impress. He had 11 points on 5-for-8 shooting, in addition tallying six assists, five rebounds and four blocked shots.
The 6-foot-2 guard had a strong game that easily glided under the radar of some of his teammates. But Bradley still finished with 17 points which included a put-back lay-up of his own miss in the fourth quarter for Boston’s only field goal in the final 4:18 of play.
Make no mistake about it, Hamilton will become a prominent part of the scouting report when these two teams meet again. He came off the Brooklyn bench to finish with a double-double of 19 points on 7-for-12 shooting, to go with 10 rebounds.
At no point did Lopez look comfortable or impactful for the Nets. He was a non-factor in every sense of the word, missing six of his seven shot attempts to finish with just seven points and five rebounds.
This group had flashes of good play here and there, but their inability to close out the game in the fourth was a bit disturbing. Not having Marcus Smart (left ankle sprain) was a factor. That said, a 23-point lead with under eight minutes to play should be more than enough of a cushion not to require the starters to have to come back in the game.
BOSTON – The Boston Celtics are not used to being the hunted, or holding a comfortable lead over teams they should beat easily.
That inexperience nearly cost them their season opener against Brooklyn which rallied back from a 23-point deficit to within a field goal of tying the game in the final seconds of play.
But the Celtics managed to hold on for a 122-117 win.
For most of the game, it went according to the script many would have expected to see played out on the TD Garden floor.
Brooklyn put up a good fight, Boston got it together in the second half and the game is over.
Not so fast, says the Nets.
Head coach Brad Stevens tried to rest his starters in the fourth, but the Celtics’ second unit simply didn’t get it done as they nearly squandered a commanding fourth quarter lead.
It was somewhat fitting that they were on the floor to finish off the pesky Nets considering they were the main reasons why Brooklyn was in such a deep fourth quarter hole.
With the win, the Celtics are now 44-27 all-time in season openers and 32-13 at home.
Making the win even sweeter was the fact that because it was so decisive, it allowed head coach Brad Stevens to rest most of his core players who will return to the floor Thursday night to play the Chicago Bulls.
Celtics all-star guard Isaiah Thomas was in double-double range most of the second half before finishing with 25 points, nine assists and six rebounds.
Boston also got a strong night from Jae Crowder who had 21 points on 9-for-15 shooting to go with four rebounds and two assists.
And while the numbers weren’t all that impressive, Al Horford delivered the kind of performance that speaks to his ability to impact the game positively for Boston in a multitude of ways.
He finished with 11 points on 5-for-8 shooting to go with five rebounds and six assists in just 25 minutes of action.
Depth was a strength of the Boston Celtics last season, and it seems to be an even bigger weapon for them now.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens went 10-deep in the first half with each Celtic who stepped on the floor in the first two quarters scoring at least two points.
The Nets came in as heavy underdogs, a team that many anticipate will be among the worst in the NBA this season.
“We can’t worry about that stuff,” Brooklyn’s Trevor Booker told CSNNE.com prior to Wednesday’s game. “The big thing for us is to go out and compete, give ourselves a chance to be successful.”
Brooklyn did just that for most of the Wednesday’s game, but Boston’s talent and depth proved to be too much.
Crowder got things poppin’ at the start of the game by making his first four shots from the field.
But the Nets didn’t buckle, but instead got a multitude of players chipping in with a bucket here or defensive stop there to keep the game from getting out of hand.
Brooklyn’s Jeremy Lin, a former star at nearby Harvard, was among the Nets players keeping the game relatively close. He finished with 18 points.
But the second half was once again dominated early on by Crowder who scored in a variety of ways which included stealing an in-bounds pass and banking in a mid-range jumper in the third quarter.
That play was part of a 26-16 run by Boston to close out the third quarter which ended with the Celtics ahead 97-81.
Brooklyn continued to play scrappy basketball in the fourth, but the Celtics had built up too big a cushion for the Nets to present any kind of real threat to Boston’s control.