BOSTON – The Boston Celtics are not used to being the hunted, or holding a comfortable lead over teams they should beat easily.
That inexperience nearly cost them their season opener against Brooklyn which rallied back from a 23-point deficit to within a field goal of tying the game in the final seconds of play.
But the Celtics managed to hold on for a 122-117 win.
CELTICS 122, NETS 117:
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For most of the game, it went according to the script many would have expected to see played out on the TD Garden floor.
Brooklyn put up a good fight, Boston got it together in the second half and the game is over.
Not so fast, says the Nets.
Head coach Brad Stevens tried to rest his starters in the fourth, but the Celtics’ second unit simply didn’t get it done as they nearly squandered a commanding fourth quarter lead.
It was somewhat fitting that they were on the floor to finish off the pesky Nets considering they were the main reasons why Brooklyn was in such a deep fourth quarter hole.
With the win, the Celtics are now 44-27 all-time in season openers and 32-13 at home.
Making the win even sweeter was the fact that because it was so decisive, it allowed head coach Brad Stevens to rest most of his core players who will return to the floor Thursday night to play the Chicago Bulls.
Celtics all-star guard Isaiah Thomas was in double-double range most of the second half before finishing with 25 points, nine assists and six rebounds.
Boston also got a strong night from Jae Crowder who had 21 points on 9-for-15 shooting to go with four rebounds and two assists.
And while the numbers weren’t all that impressive, Al Horford delivered the kind of performance that speaks to his ability to impact the game positively for Boston in a multitude of ways.
He finished with 11 points on 5-for-8 shooting to go with five rebounds and six assists in just 25 minutes of action.
Depth was a strength of the Boston Celtics last season, and it seems to be an even bigger weapon for them now.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens went 10-deep in the first half with each Celtic who stepped on the floor in the first two quarters scoring at least two points.
The Nets came in as heavy underdogs, a team that many anticipate will be among the worst in the NBA this season.
“We can’t worry about that stuff,” Brooklyn’s Trevor Booker told CSNNE.com prior to Wednesday’s game. “The big thing for us is to go out and compete, give ourselves a chance to be successful.”
Brooklyn did just that for most of the Wednesday’s game, but Boston’s talent and depth proved to be too much.
Crowder got things poppin’ at the start of the game by making his first four shots from the field.
But the Nets didn’t buckle, but instead got a multitude of players chipping in with a bucket here or defensive stop there to keep the game from getting out of hand.
Brooklyn’s Jeremy Lin, a former star at nearby Harvard, was among the Nets players keeping the game relatively close. He finished with 18 points.
But the second half was once again dominated early on by Crowder who scored in a variety of ways which included stealing an in-bounds pass and banking in a mid-range jumper in the third quarter.
That play was part of a 26-16 run by Boston to close out the third quarter which ended with the Celtics ahead 97-81.
Brooklyn continued to play scrappy basketball in the fourth, but the Celtics had built up too big a cushion for the Nets to present any kind of real threat to Boston’s control.