BOSTON — Brook Lopez set the Nets’ franchise career scoring record against the Celtics on Monday night at TD Garden. Of course, it came in a 114-105 loss, which has been the norm for most of the nine seasons the 7-footer has spent with the Nets, but his record-tying three-point play with 4:31 left in the final period cut a 27-point deficit to six and was representative of the fighting spirit Lopez and his teammates have displayed all season.
The Nets got off to a horrible start, scoring just 13 points and shooting 3-for-21 in the first quarter, and then fell behind by 27 early in the third quarter. But Lopez and Jeremy Lin led a 31-14 run that cut the deficit to 10.
When that pair returned in the middle of the fourth period, Lopez converted a three-point play to tie Buck Williams’ record of 10,440 career points and cut Boston’s lead to 101-95. After Al Horford scored for the Celtics, Lopez hit a short jumper to again move the Nets within six, but they could get no closer.
Lopez missed his first five shots of the game but finished with 25 points and 10-for-21 shooting, giving him a total of 10,444 points. “I’m just proud to have my name up there with those guys,” said Lopez, who was given the game ball at the end.
Asked for his special Nets memories, Lopez laughed and said, “I don’t know if I can pick out specific ones, but definitely ones where we won games are my favorite.”
Heaven knows Lopez has endured his share of trials with the Nets, but he has endured longer with the same franchise than most believed possible.
Lin, who led the Nets (20-61) with 26 points and 12 rebounds, had no idea Lopez had set the record until after the game.
“That’s awesome; I’m really happy for him,” Lin said. “If I could describe Brook in one word, it’d be consistency. He brings it every night. I’m glad I got to be a part of that. I wish I knew it while it happened.”
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson totaled 17 points and 11 rebounds, Caris LeVert had 12 points and Justin Hamilton added 11 points for the Nets, but they shot just 36.0 percent from the field for the game. The Celtics (52-29), who clinched the Atlantic Division title and moved into first place in the Eastern Conference, were led by Isaiah Thomas’ 27 points, Horford’s 19 and Avery Bradley’s 18.
Coach Kenny Atkinson said the Nets were “completely out of it in the first half” and faulted their shot selection. But he lauded the resiliency that has become their trademark and the job Lopez did leading the comeback.
Describing the record accomplishment, Atkinson said, “That’s just fantastic for a top-level guy. Great character. That’s the important thing. He’s such a kind human being. I think of the personal stuff he brings every day, and obviously, he’s an elite player in this league. I know he would have liked to get a win tonight, but you can’t have everything.”
Typical of Lopez, he celebrated the comeback effort by his young teammates rather than his personal achievement. “To come out in that second half and respond the way we did against one of the absolute top teams in the league was such an accomplishment,” Lopez said.
“It just shows the amount of growth we’ve had this season. We had that never-say-die attitude. I think that’s really what differentiates a group like this from one of our 12-win seasons. We’ve never felt that we were out of it or we were just going to pack it in and give up.”
As Lopez has shown, persistence counts for a lot.
Nets’ career points leaders
1. Brook Lopez 10,444
2. Buck Williams 10,440
3. Vince Carter 8,834
4. Richard Jefferson 8,507
5. Jason Kidd 7,373