The Boston Celtics fell to 5-4 following a 102-97 loss to the Brooklyn Nets. The Celtics, who were without their All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo because of an ankle injury, started the game slow. At halftime the Celtics were down nine points, but a strong third quarter gave them a five point lead heading into the fourth.
Poor offensive rhythm led to a scoring drought in the final quarter, and the Nets outscored Boston 28-18 in the final 12 minutes to capture the victory. Several missed free throws by Paul Pierce and Jason Terry late in the game proved pivotal in the loss. Pierce who led the Celtics with 22 points, barely missed out on a three-point play with 34 seconds left that would have tied the game. Instead, Pierce would go to the line and miss both free throws, putting a Boston comeback out of reach.
Tired legs may have become a factor in Boston’s less than stellar fourth quarter. The Celtics played last night, picking up a win against the Jazz. Boston spent most of the third quarter digging out of their halftime deficit, and it appeared they didn’t have enough left in the tank to close out the game.
With the Celtics statistically being the worst rebounding team in the league, controlling the paint was a concern against a big Nets’ team. Boston was pounded on the boards during the first-half, consistently giving Brooklyn second chance opportunities. The Nets’ front court of Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries combined for 34 points and 19 rebounds. Deron Williams and Lopez both led Brooklyn in scoring with 24 points, but it was Joe Johnson’s clutch shot with 3 minutes remaining that broke an 87-87 tie, giving the Nets a lead they would never relinquish.
While the game did result in a Boston loss, Doc Rivers should be able to take away several positives. Most notably is Leandro Barbosa, who continues to be effective in the minutes he receives. With Rondo out, Barbosa earned his first start of the year. He finished with 17 points and consistently got to the hoop in the first-half. When he moves back to the bench, Boston knows they have a reliable scorer to bring in whenever they are in need of an offensive spark.
Courtney Lee also had his best game in a Celtics’ uniform. The guard who had been struggling to fit in, nearly recorded a double double tonight with 13 points and nine rebounds. Boston fans will be disappointed in what they saw from Jeff Green however. After scoring 16 points last night against Utah, he managed to only score five tonight. He did hit a clutch three with less than a minute left to cut the lead to one though.
Boston will look to bounce back on Saturday when they next take on the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors are 2-6 on the year, but are coming off a win against the Pacers. It is still unknown whether Rondo will return for the match-up against the Raptors, but the Celtics will likely choose to be cautious with it being so early in the season.