The Celtics used a strong fourth quarter to pull away from the Nets on Saturday night with a 124-114 victory at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. It was the fifth straight win for the Celtics and Joe Mazzella, keeping Boston as the remaining undefeated team in the NBA through the first two weeks of the season.
Boston got the win despite playing without starting point guard Derrick White, who missed the game during the birth of his second child. Without him, Jayson Tatum (32 points, 11 rebounds) led the charge in the fourth quarter, posting his third consecutive 30-point game, including six 3s. Jrue Holiday also had his best game as a Celtic, flirting with triples while carrying the load in Boston’s shorthanded backcourt.
Cam Thomas finished with a team-high 25 points for the Nets, who dropped to 3-3 on the season with the loss. Brooklyn was without Ben Simmons and Nic Claxton in the loss.
Boston will look for their sixth straight win to open the year on Monday night in Minnesota.
Here are four takeaways from Saturday’s Celtics win:
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With Derrick White out, the Celtics are starting big: Boston’s point guard was a late starter due to the birth of his second child, opening the door for Al Horford to start next year alongside Kristaps Porzingis. The big double lineup worked well together, especially at the tail end of the first half when they put together an 18-8 run to build a double-digit halftime lead. Their biggest advantage came on the offensive glass where Horford and Porzingis helped the Celtics put up 14 points for the second time in the first half alone against the Nets frontline. There have been some challenges defending the perimeter with this team but the pros outweigh the cons in that regard.
Jayson Tatum breaks 10,000 points: The All-Star made history in the second quarter, breaking 10,000 career points with 5:05 left in the frame with a free throw. At the age of 25, Tatum became the youngest Celtic player to ever hit the milestone and became the 10th youngest NBA player to score 10,000 points in a season. He is the 14th player in franchise history to hit that milestone and continues to put himself in the MVP race by leading the team in points and rebounds as well.
Nets become smaller and present defensive pressure points: With Ben Simmons and Nic Claxton still sidelined with injuries, Brooklyn opted for a much smaller lineup, not really a traditional big starter. The tactic didn’t pay off early as the C’s punished the Nets on the glass while Brooklyn hit a lot of 3s. However, the uptempo offense produced some good looks for the Nets as the game wore on, with Cam Thomas and Spencer Dinwiddie duplicating their defenders on the perimeter to create open looks for themselves and their teammates. Boston’s offense was ahead of the defense at the beginning of the year but this was quite a night as Derrick White’s value was seen as Boston’s bigs and reserves were singled out at times.
The Celtics still haven’t forced a turnover: This was the storyline in the first year of the Joe Mazzella era and it’s still running so far this year. The Nets had a poor three-point shooting game but were able to continue the game due to the lack of fouls. The Hots had just three total turnovers in the first three quarters as Boston’s defensive pressure and tempo didn’t interfere with the Nets’ uptempo offense. Brooklyn finished the game with a total of five turnovers. This area probably won’t be the Celtics strength all year but they need to do better in this area if they want to be a top defensive team.
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