Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum scores a layup against the...

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum scores a layup against the Nets in the second half of an NBA basketball game at Barclays Center on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The Nets returned home with confidence and a three-game winning streak. They also came back debuting new clothes with their City Edition uniforms.

It was a mood ripe for a Barclays Center homecoming. Except the Celtics played spoiler and Jayson Tatum could’ve been crowned king of the court.

Tatum’s fourth-quarter scoring kept the Celtics unbeaten as the Nets lost, 124-114. Tatum scored nine of his 32 points in the final period.

The Nets, who played without Ben Simmons because of injury maintenance, showed fight but also tired legs on the second night of a back-to-back. Any push the Nets had, the Celtics stayed a step ahead.

The Nets (3-3), who trailed the entire second half, got within 96-95 with 7:47 remaining, but the Celtics (5-0) went on an 11-2 run capped by Tatum’s 27-foot three-pointer.

“We’re still learning to close games as a unit, as a group,” Spencer Dinwiddie said. “Obviously, Boston, most of that team has been in the fire together, and then obviously individually, when you add Jrue Holiday, who’s already a champion.

“Tatum’s an MVP-caliber guy, so sometimes those type of guys are more often than not going to make plays.”

Jaylen Brown had 23 points and Kristaps Porzingis added 22 for the Celtics.

The Nets were plagued by poor shooting. Royce O’Neale, starting in Simmons’ place, was 2-for-15 from the field. Mikal Bridges had 19 points but shot 7-for-20.

Cam Thomas led the Nets with 27 points. Dinwiddie had 19 points, six rebounds and six assists.

Simmons’ absence, coach Jacque Vaughn said, was pre-planned in accordance with the Nets’ performance team. That meant the Nets were down three starters, with Cam Johnson (strained calf) and Nic Claxton (sprained ankle) out for the fifth consecutive game.

Vaughn added that Simmons wasn’t feeling any pain and that it’s part of his progression early in the season. It’s unclear if a similar plan will be used for the next back-to-back on Nov. 25 and 26.

“We’ll use the opportunity to gain more information about how he’s feeling, how the season is going,” Vaughn said. “And just be smart . . . to make sure that he’s comfortable for the rest of the year.”

The Nets took a season-high 52 three-pointers and hit only 17. Most came out of desperation as they missed Simmons’ ability to create easy looks and rebound. They were outrebounded 50-42 and their transition game suffered with only seven fast-break points, down from their league-leading average of 23.4.

It also was the first time this season that the Nets had fewer than 25 assists (22).

“Ben’s a big factor on our team, one of our starters, so obviously that hurts not having him out there, and it’s gonna drop,” Bridges said. “But that’s why you wish you had those guys when you don’t and you just got to make it up on different things.”

Frustration boiled over in the fourth quarter as Vaughn had to be restrained from going after one of the officials after a layup by Tatum and earned a technical foul.

Saturday started a stretch in which the Nets will be home for 11 of their next 14 games. But it also started a daunting four-game slate in which they will host the Bucks on Monday and the Clippers on Wednesday before a rematch with the Celtics in Boston on Friday in their second in-season tournament game.

“Next man up and just gotta figure it out, that’s all,” Bridges said. “Obviously, it’s tough but, you know. Not really no excuses. Just gotta go out there and hoop and try to figure out who could play with who and spacing and everything.”

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