BOSTON — Styles make fights — but so does size. And the undersized Nets were never in this one, battered around and beaten up 139-96 by the Celtics on Wednesday night.
How bad was it? Boston dominated so thoroughly, from wire-to-wire that the sellout crowd of 19,156 at TD Garden didn’t even bother to boo Public Enemy No. 1 Kyrie Irving by the end. Whatever punishment they wanted to exact on their former player, the Celtics already had, leading by as much as 49 in a thorough thrashing.
The Nets played without Kevin Durant, Ben Simmons and T.J. Warren against a team with more big, talented wings than anybody in the league. Their Hobbit-esque lineup — with Irving (20 points, minus-31) and Seth Curry in the backcourt together — got predictably overwhelmed, just like it had in the past.
Jayson Tatum had a game-high 31 points, and Jaylen Brown added 26 as Boston sprinted out to a 27-4 lead. It got far worse from there, the Nets punching up a weight class or three against the much bigger Celtics (37-15), and spending almost the entire evening on the mat.
The Nets (31-20) have now dropped 10 straight to Boston, including last season’s humiliating first-round playoff sweep that rocked the franchise and brought on some soul searching. Wednesday was as humbling as any one of those defeats.
“They are just a unique group,” Nets coach Jacque Vaughn acknowledged, before what would become by far the worst loss of his tenure since replacing Steve Nash. “The fact Brown and Tatum — what they are capable of doing at the size — just creates a different challenge for every team, especially for us if we are going to start Ky and Seth. So, it becomes, how can we help those two guys?
“That’s where Joe [Harris], Royce [O’Neale] and Nic [Claxton] fit in. Nic has to be exceptional — and that’s on both ends of the floor, being a threat at the rim on offense and defense and being able to keep Williams off the glass. They do some things where they get crossmatched a little bit, so hopefully we can take advantage of that. We won’t change who we are and hopefully use our bench.”
It didn’t happen, out-rebounded 57-32 and beaten 30-10 on the fast break.
The Nets watched the Eastern Conference-leading Celtics scorch them on .576 shooting, and 26 of 54 from 3-point range. Cam Thomas had 19 off the bench, with no other Net higher than Harris’ dozen.
A year ago this week — last Feb. 8 — the Nets had taken a 126-91 beating at the hands of Boston. In that one, they’d fallen behind 14-0 and 28-2.They reenacted the nightmare again Wednesday, in by far the Nets’ worst showing since losing Durant to a sprained MCL on Jan. 8.Their previous worst effort in this 11-game span had been an 11-point loss at home to these same Celtics in the game immediately following Durant’s injury. They’d already hit that deficit 3:31 into Wednesday’s game, behind 14-3 on Brown’s pull-up 3-pointer.That deficit hit 27-4 on a Tatum pull-up 3 with 5:35 left in the first, the Nets shooting a wretched 1 of 11 while Boston had hit 11 of 17. It looked like a misprint, but it wasn’t the scoreboard that was malfunctioning, but the Nets.
The Nets trailed 46-16 after the opening quarter, the biggest first-quarter lead in Celtics’ franchise history — and the 17-time champions have a ton of history. The deficit ballooned to 34 at halftime and 38 to end the third quarter.
By the time Luke Kornet’s running dunk pushed it to a mind-bending 127-78 with 7:32 left to play, the contest was for all intents and purposes over. The benches had been cleared and the rest was garbage time.
- Undersized Nets outmatched by Celtics in lopsided loss
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