Undersized Nets outmatched by Celtics in lopsided loss

BOSTON — Styles make fights — but so does size. And the undersized Nets were never in this one, battered around and beaten up 139-96 by the Celtics on Wednesday night.

How bad was it? Boston dominated so thoroughly, from wire-to-wire that the sellout crowd of 19,156 at TD Garden didn’t even bother to boo Public Enemy No. 1 Kyrie Irving by the end. Whatever punishment they wanted to exact on their former player, the Celtics already had, leading by as much as 49 in a thorough thrashing.

The Nets played without Kevin Durant, Ben Simmons and T.J. Warren against a team with more big, talented wings than anybody in the league. Their Hobbit-esque lineup — with Irving (20 points, minus-31) and Seth Curry in the backcourt together — got predictably overwhelmed, just like it had in the past.

Nets forward Joe Harris (12) passes the ball while pressured by Boston Celtics center Al Horford on Wednesday.

Jayson Tatum had a game-high 31 points, and Jaylen Brown added 26 as Boston sprinted out to a 27-4 lead. It got far worse from there, the Nets punching up a weight class or three against the much bigger Celtics (37-15), and spending almost the entire evening on the mat.

The Nets (31-20) have now dropped 10 straight to Boston, including last season’s humiliating first-round playoff sweep that rocked the franchise and brought on some soul searching. Wednesday was as humbling as any one of those defeats.

“They are just a unique group,” Nets coach Jacque Vaughn acknowledged, before what would become by far the worst loss of his tenure since replacing Steve Nash. “The fact Brown and Tatum — what they are capable of doing at the size — just creates a different challenge for every team, especially for us if we are going to start Ky and Seth. So, it becomes, how can we help those two guys?

Jason Tatum drives to the basket against the Nets on Wednesday night.

“That’s where Joe [Harris], Royce [O’Neale] and Nic [Claxton] fit in. Nic has to be exceptional — and that’s on both ends of the floor, being a threat at the rim on offense and defense and being able to keep Williams off the glass. They do some things where they get crossmatched a little bit, so hopefully we can take advantage of that. We won’t change who we are and hopefully use our bench.”

It didn’t happen, out-rebounded 57-32 and beaten 30-10 on the fast break.

The Nets watched the Eastern Conference-leading Celtics scorch them on .576 shooting, and 26 of 54 from 3-point range. Cam Thomas had 19 off the bench, with no other Net higher than Harris’ dozen.

The Celtics laugh it up on the bench during their win over the Nets on Wednesday.
NBAE via Getty Images

A year ago this week — last Feb. 8 — the Nets had taken a 126-91 beating at the hands of Boston. In that one, they’d fallen behind 14-0 and 28-2.They reenacted the nightmare again Wednesday, in by far the Nets’ worst showing since losing Durant to a sprained MCL on Jan. 8.Their previous worst effort in this 11-game span had been an 11-point loss at home to these same Celtics in the game immediately following Durant’s injury. They’d already hit that deficit 3:31 into Wednesday’s game, behind 14-3 on Brown’s pull-up 3-pointer.That deficit hit 27-4 on a Tatum pull-up 3 with 5:35 left in the first, the Nets shooting a wretched 1 of 11 while Boston had hit 11 of 17. It looked like a misprint, but it wasn’t the scoreboard that was malfunctioning, but the Nets.

The Nets trailed 46-16 after the opening quarter, the biggest first-quarter lead in Celtics’ franchise history — and the 17-time champions have a ton of history. The deficit ballooned to 34 at halftime and 38 to end the third quarter.

By the time Luke Kornet’s running dunk pushed it to a mind-bending 127-78 with 7:32 left to play, the contest was for all intents and purposes over. The benches had been cleared and the rest was garbage time.

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