What a victory!!!
Down 28 in the second, the Brooklyn Nets tied a franchise record with a huge comeback, beating the Boston Celtics, 115-105, at TD Garden, leaving Beantown fans in a daze and breaking the four-game streak. consecutive losses of the Nets. The comeback was also the NBA’s biggest comeback this season and Boston’s worst comeback loss since the Clippers also rallied 28 to beat Boston four years ago.
It was also the most satisfying win of the season…period.
How big was the turnaround? After the Nets fell 51-23, they beat the Celtics, 92-54, a 38-point push powered by Mikal Bridges who finished with 38 points, 10 boards and four assists. It was the second-highest scoring game of his career after setting a new career high with 45 points in a win over the Miami Heat in his third game as a Net.
“We just kept fighting, man. We just kept fighting. We had saves, and that was the most important thing,” Bridges said in his post-game interview. “We won’t stop fighting, no matter the score. We were big, but we’re just going to fight.
“I think we understood or realized in a few games that attacking wasn’t really our problem,” Bridges added. “I feel like our offense is pretty good. But our defense, we stopped and stayed together possession by possession. … We just kept each other and stayed together.
It looked like another Nets defensive disaster as the Nets gave up 37 points in the first quarter, dropping 22. It was the thirteenth time in 17 quarters since the All-Star break that Brooklyn had given up 30 or more points. Then, in the second, things got even uglier and with 7:23 left in the quarter, the Celtics climbed to a 28-point lead after a field goal from Jaylen Brown. At that point, the Nets’ team pride took over and by the end of the quarter, the Nets had cut the lead to nine, 64-55.
“There was a moment in the second quarter where we looked at each other and it was like ‘we’re not going to come out this way,'” said Cam Johnson, who celebrated his 27th birthday on Friday.
It was the whole Brooklyn ball after that. At 6:27 into the third, the Nets had tied the game, 70 all, on a 27-foot Johnson. Boston players and their fans seemed to believe the Celtics would eventually come to life…but they never did.
On several occasions Bridges, Johnson, Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith kept pushing and in the fourth the Nets were up in double digits and with 6:54 to go. DFS delivered what turned out to be the dagger with 2:23 remaining. From then on, they coasted, keeping the Celtics at bay. In fact, in the second half, they held Boston to 41 points.
“I try to keep things very simple with our guys and not complicate them,” Jacque Vaughn said. “The goal is that every night we try to win the basketball game. That’s the goal (every) night and then we’ll deal with whatever happens next.
“I haven’t addressed where we are in the standings with our guys, which is a week away, I really don’t want them looking that far ahead. For us, our game plan is dedicated to (Boston) and try to give what we have.
Bridges, the Nets’ coveted player in Kevin Durant’s trade, justified his confidence, shooting 13 of 22 for the game, including 4 of 6 from three as well as 8 of 9 from the boards. He now averages 25.3 as a net while shooting 53/45/94 splits.
“I think when I got traded it was kind of at the right time because when everyone was in Phoenix I had to take on another offensive role and be more aggressive,” Bridges said. “At the time I was traded I was on a good pace and confident.”
Johnson, who had three games in the first three minutes, still finished with 20 points without having a great shooting night (5 of 16). Dinwiddie, who led the Nets offense in the second half, had perhaps his best game since returning to Brooklyn, with 17 points and eight assists. Finney-Smith certainly had his best game as a net, finally emerging from an unusual shooting slump. DFS shot 5 of 11 from deep on its way to a game of 17 points, nine rebounds and three assists. Heading into Friday, DFS had shot just 20.6 percent from beyond the arc.
Finney-Smith, who Vaughn used in several defensive roles, helped keep Jayson Tatum on a leash. Tatum finished with 22 points, eight below his average, shooting 10 of 23 overall and missing his eight of three, on his 25th birthday. Jaylen Brown led Boston with 35.
“They beat us in every possible analytical category,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said. “If we don’t commit to the margins, no matter how hard we play, we’re not going to win.”
The Celtics have now lost two of their last three games and lost more ground to East-leading Milwaukee, which was inactive on Friday. The Nets at 35-27 remain the sixth seed with 19 games remaining. They lead the Heat by two and a half games — three in the loss column — after Miami lost to the No. 5 Knicks, two games ahead of the Nets.
Vaughn summed it up as he sat down with the media after the game.
“Oh boy, what about that?” a smiling Vaughn said. “We figured it out as the game went on….. We showed glimpses of what it can be tonight.”
- The win matches the biggest comeback win in franchise history, previously achieved on March 16, 2022 in New York and March 19, 2019 in Sacramento. In both of those games, the Nets won on daggers late in the fourth quarter. The Nets have outscored the Celtics 100-68 over the past three quarters.
- Mikal Bridges has had over 30 points in three of his last six games, averaging 28.7 over that streak. He scored over 30 points in two of his career opening 367 games.
- It’s Dorian Finney-Smith’s third game with five or more 3-pointers this season and his first since Dec. 6 with Dallas in Denver.
- The Nets now lead the league in pace for the past five games.
Another update from Ben Simmons
There is no timetable for Ben Simmons’ return, Jacque Vaughn said before the match, adding that the 6’11” forward is now suffering from back pain as well as knee pain.
“Update on Ben, during his strengthening process he experienced back pain. We are now strengthening the knee while managing the back,” Vaughn said. update on what it looks like in the future because of the addition of the back.”
So, are the Nets considering shutting it down for the season with 19 games left?
“I had zero conversations, zero, about a stoppage,” the head coach said.
Simmons hasn’t played since Feb. 15. He has only played 100 games over the past three seasons.
The Nets will return to Brooklyn on Sunday for a game against the Hornets, starting at 6:00 p.m. ET.
For a different perspective, head over to CelticsBlog, our sister site in Brooklyn. Be kind.