Nets comeback bid falls short vs. Celtics in 103-94 loss

By on January 5, 2016


Monday, January 4, 2016, 10:09 PM

Brook Lopez defends a Marcus Smart shot as the Nets fall to the Celtics, 103-94.Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

Brook Lopez defends a Marcus Smart shot as the Nets fall to the Celtics, 103-94.

With Jarrett Jack out for the season, Brooklyn was forced into a new look for the New Year. But the same old Nets showed up on Monday night against the Celtics, teasing at the possibility of a fourth quarter comeback before imploding.

Boston’s Jae Crowder had 17 of his 25 points in the first half, but the other eight served as emphatic crowd silencers and squashed Brooklyn’s fourth quarter run in an eventual 103-94 loss.

A Bogdan Bogdanovic three-point play in transition put the Nets within five, the closest they had been since the first quarter. But it was also as close as they would come. Marcus Smart fooled Brooklyn’s defense with an up-and-under scoop to put Boston back up by double digits and effectively sealed the victory.

For a 10-23 team to overcome the loss of its third highest scorer and leading assist man is no easy feat, but Lionel Hollins expressed confidence in newly named starter Shane Larkin ahead of Monday night’s game, Brooklyn’s first without Jack.

Though he maintained the Nets would not change the way the offense ran with Larkin at the helm, Hollins did say his point guard would need to study deeper into the playbook.

“(Larkin) will probably have to get more confident with a variety of the plays, because usually when he goes in he limits himself on what he calls,” Hollins said before the game. “But now he’s not gonna be able to do that because he’ll be in with the starters, so he’ll have to familiarize himself with a bigger part of the playbook.”

Jae Crowder throws down a dunk on Bogdan Bogdanovic, finishing with 25 points in the game.Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

Jae Crowder throws down a dunk on Bogdan Bogdanovic, finishing with 25 points in the game.

Hollins was less than thrilled with what he eventually got from Larkin, who didn’t look truly comfortable in the offense at the start and scored just four points and dished out two assists in 28 minutes. The Nets turned the ball over eight times in the first quarter, many of them coming on forced passes into a clogged lane in pick and roll situations.

Larkin was pulled with four minutes left in the opening quarter in favor of Donald Sloan, who hit his first shot of the game. But Brooklyn’s backup didn’t fare much better beyond that, and it was impossible for the Nets to find any offensive rhythm when their defense was all but nonexistent on the other end of the floor.

Neither team could find its stroke from beyond the arc, but the Celtics were at their best on the inside. Boston outscored the Nets 34-18 in the paint in the first half and 54-40 in the game.

The reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week, Brook Lopez, was stymied early on, going just (2-of-5) from the floor for four points in the first 24 minutes.

Coming off a three-game stretch where he averaged 26.7 points per game and 13.3 rebounds per game, Hollins said Lopez was scoring and making the right plays for his teammates at the same time.

Lopez drives on Tyler Zeller, finishing with 19 points.Anthony Gruppuso/USA Today Sports

Lopez drives on Tyler Zeller, finishing with 19 points.

“Even though he scored, he also shared the ball out of the double team, made good decisions, and those are the things we need from Brook all the time,” Hollins said before the game.

On Monday night, without Jack to work the pick and roll, though, Lopez’s opportunities were limited as Larkin struggled to get him the ball in a comfortable position to score.

The center came alive with 11 points in the third quarter, helping his team hang around, and Brooklyn continuously fed him down the stretch. But with Tyler Zeller on him, Lopez couldn’t get anything easy, as all of his signature hook shots in the lane were hotly contested.

When it became clear that Lopez’s struggles were not dissipating, Brooklyn needed to look elsewhere for some offense, but nobody rose to the challenge. Thaddeus Young was solid again with 23 points and 15 rebounds, but he was quiet down the stretch.

After a promising two wins in its last three, the Nets dropped another disappointing one on their home court and failed to win the season series against the Celtics.

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