BOSTON — The Brooklyn Nets gave a valiant effort in the fourth quarter Monday night, but the Boston Celtics sent their fans home happy from TD Garden with a 114-105 win.
The victory moves Boston one game ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers for first place in the Eastern Conference. The Cavs lost 124-121 in overtime to the Miami Heat on Monday.
The victory improves the Celtics to 52-29, while the Nets fall to an NBA-worst 20-61.
Here’s how it all went down.
PG: Isaiah Thomas
SG: Avery Bradley
SF: Jae Crowder
PF: Amir Johnson
C: Al Horford
The Celtics jumped out to a 28-13 lead at the end of the first quarter, but it wasn’t because of their offense. Boston shot just 4-for-12 from 3-point land and shot under 50 percent from the field.
The bright spot was their defense, which held the Nets to 3-for-21 shooting, including a 1-for-8 mark from beyond the arc. The C’s did a good job contesting shots, and they also limited second-chance opportunities, evidenced by the Nets’ two offensive rebounds in the quarter.
Bradley had a nice frame, too, shooting 3-for-4 from the field, including this put-back layup.
WIDENING THE GAP
The Celtics stretched their lead to 18 in the second quarter and entered halftime up 58-40. Thomas (12 points) and Bradley (nine points) paced Boston in the first half. The C’s got solid scoring contributions from the bench, too, as Marcus Smart and Kelly Olynyk each chipped in nine first-half points. Boston also led 24-10 in fast-break points.
The second quarter was similar to the first in that both teams shot poorly, but the Celtics’ defense once again stepped up. The Nets shot a horrid 12-for-44 (27.9 percent) from the field through 24 minutes, including a 4-for-15 mark from beyond the arc.
Jeremy Lin was the only Nets player in double figures at halftime, and six of his 11 points came at the foul line.
NETS FIGHT BACK
The Celtics increased their lead with an 11-2 run to begin the third quarter, but the Nets battled back with an 18-5 run in the middle portion of the frame. The Celtics recovered a bit, but the Nets kept attacking and trimmed the lead to 10 with just two minutes remaining in the quarter. A lot of Brooklyn’s damage came at the line, where it went 28-for-30 through 36 minutes. Lin went 12-for-13 from the line himself. Boston attempted and made just 12 free throws through the first three quarters.
Nets center Brook Lopez scored 11 points and grabbed six rebounds in the quarter to lead Brooklyn.
The Celtics led 90-77 after three quarters.
The Nets trimmed the Celtics’ lead to just seven a 97-90 and 99-92. They would eventually get within six points on multiple occasions, but the Celtics fed Horford and he answered.
Horford and Thomas continued to score down the stretch for the Celtics, who closed out the quarter on a 9-4 run.
HORFORD DOES A LITTLE OF EVERYTHING
The Celtics made sure to give Horford the ball often, either in a scoring position or at the top of the key where he could use his playmaking ability. He had a few nice assists early, including a sweet backdoor dime on a bounce pass to Thomas for a layup in the first quarter.
The veteran center finished with 18 points, eight rebounds and four assists in 33 minutes. He also provided quality interior defense when the Nets attacked the rim.
Horford took advantage of his matchup against the smaller, less experienced Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and it paid off for Boston.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT
The second, and most impressive, of Bradley’s put backs.
The Celtics host the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night at TD Garden in their regular-season finale.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images