Shorthanded and weary Nets get run over by Celtics
BOSTON — Injuries, the NBA schedule and a championship-contending Celtics team combined to snap the Nets’ three-game winning streak in a 116-95 rout Monday night at TD Garden.
The Nets were playing their third game in four nights and were down to 10 healthy bodies, and the loss dropped them to eighth in the Eastern Conference.
The Nets trailed by 20 in the second quarter and still were down by 17 late in the third when they scored eight straight points, ending with a three-pointer by Spencer Dinwiddie to open the fourth quarter and cut their deficit to 86-77. But the Celtics had too much firepower and turned it up at will with a 22-7 run that pushed their lead to 108-84.
Rookie Rodions Kurucs led the Nets (20-22) with 24 points, including a career-high five three-pointers, Dinwiddie added 15 points and Kenneth Faried totaled 13 points and 12 rebounds. But the Nets committed 23 turnovers leading to 30 Celtics points and shot only 11-for-42 from three-point range.
Kyrie Irving had 24 points to lead eight players in double figures for the Celtics (24-15).
Turnovers killed the Nets in the first quarter and again in the third after they cut their deficit to 59-54 before the Celtics pushed their margin back to 17.
“That was kind of the old Nets,” coach Kenny Atkinson said. “That was a big problem of ours last year and the beginning of this year. Their bigs are up in pick-and-rolls and they’re swiping and they’re active and they pull over on the weak side. They put a ton of pressure on your ballhandlers.”
The Nets came into the game as one of the NBA’s hottest teams with a 12-3 record in their previous 15 games. But the injury bug that has tested their improved depth all season stretched them to the breaking point.
Joe Harris sat out with an ankle sprain suffered in Sunday’s win in Chicago and DeMarre Carroll (sore left knee) also sat out. Atkinson said before the game that he doubts that the injuries to Harris and Carroll will be anything long-term. Both players said after the game that they expect to be ready to face the Hawks on Wednesday night at Barclays Center.
In any event, Atkinson shunned the injury excuse, saying: “We have 10 NBA players. We just didn’t play well enough. I don’t think it was a matter of bodies.”
Considering the Nets had a chance to reach the .500 mark after starting the season 8-18, it was a disappointing ending to a three-game trip that began with wins in Memphis and Chicago, but Atkinson praised his players for going 2-1, and they took it to heart.
“Obviously, they are one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference and they forced a lot of turnovers, which got them out in transition and got them easy buckets,” Dinwiddie said of the Celtics. “But any time you go 2-1 on what was supposed to be a really tough road trip, it’s definitely good. We would have liked to get this one as well. We believe in our guys and our capability to do so, but 2-1 is solid.”
Nets to play in China. The NBA on Monday announced that the Nets and Lakers will be featured in the 2019 NBA China Games. The two-game exhibition series includes games Oct. 10 in Shanghai and Oct. 12 in Shenzen. The Nets previously played in China in 2010 and 2014. They always have been eager participants in international play.