The NBA is one of the most marketing-savvy businesses in the world, yet they still haven’t grasped that the Celtics should have an automatic home game every St. Patrick’s Day. As a result, the Cs were instead in Brooklyn for a chance to tighten their grip on the second seed while also pushing the league-worst Nets farther down in the lottery standings. Although they played without leading scorer and spark plug Isaiah Thomas, who remained at home with a bruised knee, the Celtics won, 98-95. Jae Crowder led the way with 24 points, and Marcus Smart helped nail it down with clutch free throws in the final minute.
On to tonight’s Guinness-fueled recap.
The Game Flow:
Smart took IT’s place in the starting five, but the squad got off to a slow start. Boston made just two of their first 10 shots and fell behind 12-7. That’s when the Celts turned up their defense, holding the Nets scoreless for 5:30 and ripping off 11 straight points. Al Horford triggered the run with ultra-aggressive offense and a block and a steal on defense. The Celtics did not take advantage of a two-for-one opportunity (a bad habit lately), but they ended the quarter head 21-16. Boston shot just 31.8% for the period, but Brooklyn was even worse at 28.6%.
The futility continued in the second quarter, as shot after shot clanged off the rim for both teams. Even Smart’s normally productive post-ups weren’t working. This time the Celts went more than five minutes without a field goal, but still led 30-25 when Gerald Green took a pass from Smart and threw it down. Smart, who had missed his first seven shots, finally made a floater and a corner three. When Avery Bradley hit two from the line, the Celts were able to take a 45-37 lead to the locker room.
At the break, the Cs had elevated their shooting percentage slightly to 36.4%, but the Nets remained consistent at a hideous 28.6%. Bradley had 11 points and Crowder added seven with eight rebounds. But truly, the highlight of the half was a loud “Let’s go Celtics!” chant by the many green-clad fans in attendance.
The Celts paid for their failure to pull away from Brooklyn as the Nets opened the third with a 12-3 run, taking their first lead of the game at 49-48 on a Jeremy Lin triple. Horford picked up his fourth foul and went to the bench with the score at 55-all. The bad shooting was compounded by a barrage of fouls from both squads. Crowder give the Cs some breathing room with two FTs and a trey, 62-57, Boston. Layups by Bradley and Kelly Olynyk helped stretch the lead to 68-58. Quincy Acy made a three for Brooklyn, and after more bricks from each side, the quarter ended with the Cs ahead, 71-65.
The lead lasted less than 90 seconds, as the Nets drained three straight treys to take a three-point lead. Terry Rozier, “celebrating” his 23rd birthday, was especially terrible during this stretch, with a blocked layup, missed layup and missed three-pointer. Green subbed in for TR and immediately hit a jumper. With Brooklyn holding a one-point lead, Crowder hit a triple, then drew an offensive foul. Horford made a huge block of Brook Lopez at the rim, and Brooklyn went five minutes without a field goal until Foye hit a three to tie the score. Horford answered with his own triple, but Caris LeVert (who?) matched it for the tie at 83.
Then Crowder took over, swishing a deep three and then slamming home a dunk and-one for a 91-85 lead with 2:55 remaining. Horford’s jumper stretched the lead to eight, but Lopez scored twice in the paint to cut the margin to four. A phantom foul allowed Brooklyn to cut it to 93-91 with 44 seconds left. The Celts then drew a couple of calls, and Smart swished two FTs for a 95-91 margin with 24 ticks remaining.
Lin banked home a short jumper, but Marcus answered with two more from the line. Foye responded with a driving layup and it was 97-95, Boston, with 10.4 seconds left. Avery was fouled intentionally but hit just one to make the lead 98-95. In the final nine seconds, the Nets got not one, not two, but three chances at a game-tying triple, but all missed and the Celts ran off with a shaky win,
Safe to say, IT was sorely missed. The Celts shot just 7-29 from the arc; that ended a 26-game streak in which they made at least 10 three-pointers.
Crowder made up for IT’s absence with game highs of 24 points and 12 rebounds. Crowder scored six straight points with about three minutes left to give the Celts an advantage that they never relinquished. Here are the key sequences.
Honorable mention to the designer of the Celtics’ green and gold uniforms, which are fire and should definitely be rolled out more often than just at St. Paddy’s time.
In IT’s absence, we’ll go with this Gerald Green turn-back-the-clock hammer. Gerald had 11 points on 4-8 shooting.
- Bradley: 16 points
- Horford: 14 points, eight rebounds, four assists, four blocks
- Jaylen Brown: 16 minutes, 0-2 shooting, 0 points
- Rozier: 23 minutes, 0-8 shooting, 0 points
- Lopez: 23 points
- Field goals: Celtics 34-85 (40.0%), Nets 30-83 (36.1%)
- Celts won the boards, 51-41.
- The Nets’ 37 points were a first-half season-low.
- The Celtics are now 23-15 all-time on St. Patrick’s Day.