BOSTON — “Every win has a story” was a slogan that flashed inside TD Garden. The opposite also is true, and the Nets didn’t like the script they wrote Friday night.
Their 121-107 loss to the Celtics said they gave up too many offensive rebounds, leading to extra possessions. They also had no answer for Jaylen Brown, who scored 28 points and became the latest All-Star to give the Nets fits. They also fueled the Celtics with their mistakes and poor execution.
The Celtics (6-2, 1-0 in-season tournament) outscored the Nets 29-5 in second-chance points, thanks to 17 offensive rebounds. On one sequence in the third quarter, Peyton Pritchard missed a free throw yet got the offensive rebound for a putback.
It was the type of hustle play the Nets (4-5, 1-1) lacked or couldn’t cash in. They had only nine offensive rebounds and were 0-for-6 on second-chance shots.
“It was a lot, man. Even had Pritchard getting four offensive rebounds. So you know, that’s kind of unacceptable,” Lonnie Walker IV said. “We know their ability to crash on the offensive boards when we have it. When we get the defensive rebounds, we got to go knowing that five men are crashing, and so we should have done a better job on transition.”
The bright spot was the Nets’ bench, mainly Walker and Trendon Watford. As they’ve done lately, the duo brought a jolt when they checked in after the Nets started slowly.
Both led an all-bench lineup to rally from being down 27-19 to being tied at 30. Walker had eight points in the period and Watford chipped in six.
The Celtics, however, went on a 8-0 run after Walker’s shot, and the Nets didn’t get closer than three points the rest of the game.
Jayson Tatum had 23 points and Jrue Holiday added 13 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists for Boston.
Walker had 20 points, his second consecutive game with at least that many, and it extended his streak of scoring in double figures to eight games. Watford had 14 points, six rebounds and three assists.
“I don't think I've told him one shot was bad yet, so I think it's a pretty good life to live for a guy who wants to score the basketball,” Vaughn said of Walker. ''My thing with him is to continue to push him on the defensive end of the floor.”
The Celtics, who led by as many as 24 points, had no trouble on that end. Their defensive pressure led the Nets to often take shots late in the shot clock. As low-percentage attempts, it led to more Celtics rebounds.
It spoiled the return of Cam Johnson, who had 11 points after missing the previous seven games with a strained calf.
“They're switching everything and we're trying to find a matchup or get into our flow,” Johnson said. "And, you know, we're also figuring that out. I mean, this lineup that we played today. Spencer, me, Mikal, Doe and Royce has been, I think, very, very limited minutes. It’s a lineup we can go to but just very limited minutes."
Part of that was who was absent. Ben Simmons sat his second consecutive game with left hip soreness, so the Nets lacked his vision and facilitating. Cam Thomas being hurt (sprained ankle) meant the Nets didn’t have their best shot creator.
It led to only 13 fast-break points. The Nets have had their three lowest fast-break outputs this season with Simmons on the bench.
It’s something the Nets have to resolve. They’ve found success with makeshift lineups because of injury but sometimes it doesn’t cover everything. As Johnson noted, they’re still a work in progress.
"We should’ve done a better job in transition, but it’s nothing but growth,” Walker said. “That’s all we can ask for eight, nine games in. See what we can take away from it and it’s on to the next game.”