Celtics-Nets Live: Brook Lopez’s Inside Dominance Too Much as C’s Fall 82-80

Jason Kidd, Deron Williams

Final, Nets win 82-80: Nice job, Chris Johnson, on hitting your free throws with seven seconds left to break this tie.

Nice job, Courtney Lee, missing your short jump shot that would have tied the game and sent this preseason contest to overtime.

Nobody at the Barclays Center needed overtime in a game that had gone downhill. Not even Lee, who led the Celtics with 14 points and earned a few odd Tommy points for his hustle, really wanted to hang around longer with another game looming on Wednesday.

Brook Lopez led everybody with 20 points in a downright dominant performance as the Celtics had no real answer defensively for the All-Star 7-footer. Kris Humphries had a solid game for the Celtics with 12 points and eight rebounds, and Avery Bradley hauled in a team-high nine boards. Paul Pierce had an underwhelming game offensively but did register the game’s high with 10 rebounds.

Fourth quarter, 1:00, game tied 80-80: Darn you, Courtney Lee.

Back-to-back triples by Lee have knotted the score and made him the Celtics’ leading scorer with 14 points.

Overtime?

Fourth quarter, 2:30, Nets 80-74: The Nets have turned around, taken the lead and started to put some distance between themselves and the Celtics.

Just pray they extend their lead. Overtime would not be good in this game.

Things have devolved ever since halftime, and this is now a true preseason game. Aside from Lee, as we mentioned, players are just kind of coasting around on defense and flying around on offense, tossing up wild shots. Crawford is back to playing Steez-ball, firing up some shots that will turn Stevens’ youthful hair gray in no time.

Fourth quarter, 5:50, Celtics 71-69: Nobody had a more inconsistent season than Courtney Lee last year. Not even Jeff Green.

But Lee has not approached this season with any hang over. If anything, he might be trying too hard in a random preseason game in Brooklyn. He’s hit the floor for at least three loose balls and he’s running circles around the blase Nets.

On the first leg of a back-to-back, Lee is not holding anything back. Maybe he knows something the rest of us don’t about his availability on Wednesday.

Fourth quarter, 7:08, Celtics 69-67: Some of Olynyk’s mid-range jump shots just make you say, “Wow.”

The rook hit a tough, off-balance leaner from the left elbow followed by a pick-and-pop jumper from the right baseline to help the Celtics hold onto their lead. He’s still got some things to work on defensively, but he’s not nearly as bad as some feared. And his stroke makes any growing pains at the other end worth working through.

End of third quarter, Celtics 63-62: This game is kind of a microcosm of Jeff Green’s career as a whole. There’s no way to know quite what to make of it.

When Green has been good, he’s been very, very good. When he’s been bad — well, you know.

Green’s 12 points look impressive if not for the stretches he has looked lost. He did conclude the third quarter with a spinning baseline fadeaway, but he’s alternated flashes with flops.

He is tied for the Celtics’ team-high in scoring heading into the final quarter. Bradley has nine rebounds, a team best.

Third quarter, 2:44, Celtics 57-56: The Celtics have the lead, but it is still hard to believe their analytical coach really loves the way they have gotten it.

Everybody seems to be taking less-than-ideal shots in this game and this preseason. Lee took an elbow three off the dribble. Green took an off-balance, fadeaway 15-footer. Humphries has taken a couple of his weird peashooter jumpers.

Stevens claims not to be a slave to numbers, but he knows a thing or two about shot efficiency. And what the Celtics are doing ain’t that. Their .349 field goal percentage is proof of that.

Third quarter, 6:28, Nets 53-52: This game has taken a turn for the worse.

Preseason basketball is often a defense-free zone to begin with, but this is ridiculous. Green and Bass have both had open-floor dunks from the Celtics simply throwing the ball over the top while the Nets fail to get back.

The Celtics, meanwhile, aren’t doing much better. Brooklyn still couldn’t hit a three if its life depended on it — the Nets are now 1-for-9 — but they don’t need to as the Celtics defense acts like a sieve.

Halftime, Nets 46-43: Jeff Green just got done playing what had to be one of his worst halves of basketball ever. Then he completely redeemed himself.

Puttering into the final minute of the first half with six points and four turnovers in 12 minutes, Green flashed baseline just as Reggie Evans rotated over on defense. Jared Sullinger hit Green on the cut in stride, and Evans became the unfortunate victim of a highlight-reel slam.

The Nets still hang onto the lead, though, and Brook Lopez has been the best player on the court. Lopez leads everyone with 17 points. Andray Blatch, with 13 points, and Kris Humphries, with 10 points, are the only other players in double figures.

Truthfully, this has been sort of an ugly one. The teams have combined for 23 turnovers and are shooting 4-for-16 on 3-pointers. The Nets have been more successful getting to the foul line, but they are just 9-for-17 from the stripe. That is not exactly capitalizing on their free throw opportunities.

Second quarter, 5:25, Nets 33-31: Now the Celtics’ comeback cannot be blamed on poor competition. Real NBA players like Lopez, Pierce and Blatche are on the floor, but the Celtics are hanging around.

Gerald Wallace, Humphries, Sullinger, Lee and Bradley are playing effective defense and doing just enough on offense. Bradley already has two steals, although he could have finally gotten on the scoreboard when Lee tossed him an over-the-top pass for a wide-open layup.

Bradley muffed the gimme and had to have Olynyk clean up the miss.

Second quarter, 8:59, Nets 25-24: Phil Pressey has such a calming influence on the offense. A real point guard can do that.

With Pressey in the game, the other four players relaxed when the ball was being brought up the floor, trusting that the Mizzou product would get them into their sets. The rookie was a large part in why the Celtics have been able to cut into the Nets’ lead.

Of course, the exit of Johnson, Pierce and Lopez and the presence of Mirza Teletovic, Alan Anderson and Mason Plumlee on the court helped Boston, too.

End of first quarter, Nets 24-18: The Celtics are no longer hanging tough on the glass. They’re not shooting that much better, either.

Somehow, though, they are managing to hang around.

Despite getting out-rebounded 16-11 and shooting 7-for-23, the Celtics are down by just two possessions thanks to some freaky plays. Kelly Olynyk banked in a 20-footer from the wing that may or may not have been intentional and Kris Humphries worked his way to four quick points off the bench.

Avery Bradley is working, as usual, but the energy is not paying off much. He is 0-for-4 from the field, including a missed layup after stealing the ball immediately after missing a floater. Eventually, Bradley is going to need to make some more solid basketball plays and not just the hustle plays.

First quarter, 5:35, Nets 13-8: Despite starting kind of a small front line, the Celtics are holding their own down low. They are even in the rebounding battle 8-8 and Crawford, of all people, muscled inside for a putback layup.

The Celtics simple are not making shots, which has been a persistent problem this preseason. Jeff Green leads the team with four points but the Celtics are just 3-for-12 as a team. It look until the 9:25 mark for Jared Sullinger to finally put them on the scoreboard with a layup.

6:42 p.m.: Brad Stevens said at practice on Monday that the starting lineup that opened Saturday’s game in New Hampshire was pretty close to what fans should expect to see going forward. He stayed true to his word on Tuesday.

Jordan Crawford joins Avery Bradley in the starting backcourt for the third straight game. Get used to this pairing. While Bradley is capable of handling the ball in spurts, Crawford’s ballhandling and passing abilities make him the ideal person to ease Bradley’s difficulties manning the point full-time. In addition, Crawford has been surprisingly reliable as the primary ballhandler.

Garnett takes a seat for this one, as we reported earlier. Pierce, after a quick visit with his old teammates, is in the starting lineup after taking Monday’s game off.

The projected starters are below.

Celtics
Jared Sullinger
Brandon Bass
Jeff Green
Avery Bradley
Jordan Crawford

Nets
Brook Lopez
Andray Blatche
Paul Pierce
Joe Johnson
Shaun Livingston

6:25 p.m.: In a move that should surprise almost nobody, Paul Pierce took a detour into the Celtics’ locker room to say hello to some old teammates.

Although it seems like half the team went with him to Brooklyn, a few of his former teammates remain in the visitor’s locker room at Barclays Center. Pierce must want to get the pleasantries out of the way now, rather than on the court.

10:15 a.m.: It won’t be a complete reunion, it appears.

Kevin Garnett will not be playing tonight, as Nets coach Jason Kidd is doing as he predicted and taking liberty with when he deploys the veteran forward.

Garnett told reporters that the choice wasn’t his decision, and that he wished he was playing.

Paul Pierce, who rested Monday, will play tonight, Kidd said.

8 a.m. ET: Paul Pierce has already said he does not plan to suit up for the Nets’ preseason finale in Boston, preferring to wait until the regular season to make his return to the court at TD Garden. So this could be Celtics fans only chance this preseason to see their former hero take on his old team.

Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry will host the Celtics in a miniature reunion for all three. Brandon Bass admitted in practice on Monday that this being the preseason, the meeting will not have as much emotion as it will when the Celtics play in Brooklyn on Dec. 10 or in Boston on Jan. 26.

Bass and a few of the holdovers from the last couple of seasons will use Tuesday’s game as a chance to prove to their old teammates that things are just fine back in Boston.

“The ol’ G’s aren’t here anymore,” Bass said. “The young G’s have to step up now. We’re treating it like a regular game. Got to go out, play hard at both ends and try to get a win.”

At least Pierce should be rested. Nets coach Jason Kidd gave Pierce the night off in Philadelphia on Monday as the team began a stretch of three games in four nights. At least one other regular player will probably rest as well, although it is uncertain whether it could be Garnett.

Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which tips off at 7:30 p.m. ET.

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