There could have been a “Welcome Home” sign flashed across the marquee of Barclays Center facing Atlantic and Flatbush avenues in downtown Brooklyn Tuesday night. The Brooklyn Nets were back home, their first game in their arena since last month, Halloween night, the first one in November.
After a five-game, 2 wins-3 losses, West Coast road trip, their first extensive excursion of the season, the Nets were back in Brooklyn to greet the Boston Celtics (Tuesday), the Utah Jazz tomorrow night (Friday) and the Golden State Warriors, the defending NBA champions, Sunday. Brooklyn then hits the road again to play the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James, another league powerhouse Wednesday. The Celtics are the leaders of the Eastern Conference, where the Nets reside. The Golden State Warriors are the leaders of the west.
The Celtics, now with guard Kyrie Irving on their roster and first-round rookie draft pick Jayson Tatum, a Duke University alum, their first appearance at Barclays as Celtics players, showed up with a 12-game win streak and departed with 13. Brooklyn, without injured guard, DeMarcus Russell, was competitive throughout the game but just got some bad breaks in the third quarter.
In past games, losses have been credited to complete collapses of a quarter or more.
“They turned up their defense, and we couldn’t handle it,” said Kenny Atkinson, the Nets head coach. Boston extended their 1-point halftime lead by 8 at the end of the third quarter. The game was lost there, 109-102.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, who’s also preparing to play the Warriors tonight, in Boston, credited Brooklyn’s play in transition, capitalizing on his team’s mistakes. “You can’t have that against Golden State,” he said. “You just get blown out of the gym.”
Guard Joe Harris came off the bench for Brooklyn, contributing 19 points, a career high, and 4 rebounds to their box score, and there were16 points, 9 rebounds from starter Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Jefferson also dropped 19 against the Jazz on the road Saturday.
Atkinson was full of praise for second-year player Caris LeVert. “I thought Caris gave us a big boost,” noted Atkinson, impressed with his guard’s production: 15 points, 4 assists and 1 steal.