Injuries catch up with Nets in Beantown
Brooklyn finally falters down stretch in 112-104 loss to Celtics
The Nets found out Monday afternoon that Spencer Dinwiddie underwent successful surgery to repair torn ligaments in his injured right thumb.
Then, the hottest team in the Eastern Conference got a taste of what life without their Sixth Man of the Year candidate might be like going forward.
D’Angelo Russell scored a game-high 25 points but was benched for the final nine minutes of regulation after committing his fifth turnover, leaving Brooklyn without a go-to scorer down the stretch during Monday night’s 112-104 loss to the Boston Celtics in front of a sellout crowd of 18,624 at TD Garden.
“I’m just disappointed; I didn’t think we made the extra pass tonight,” Brooklyn head coach Kenny Atkinson lamented after his team had its six-game winning streak snapped in a game that saw the Celtics block a team-record 16 shots.
“When they are coming, we’ve got to kick it for open shots,” added Atkinson, who had four regulars missing besides Dinwiddie, who could be out for at least six weeks. “I felt like it was a little too much put your head down and go against two guys at the rim. We’ve got to do a better job of making that extra pass.”
Russell, seven days removed from being named the conference’s Player of the Week, hit half of his 20 field-goal attempts, including 4-of-8 from 3-point range.
But Atkinson opted to go with backup point guard Shabazz Napier (20 points) in crunch time as the Nets were having trouble protecting the ball and stopping Boston.
Russell’s final basket of the night with 10:47 left on the clock pulled the Nets within 91-90, but Boston, missing superstar Kyrie Irving due to a sore hip, ran off the next 11 points, capped by Jaylen Brown’s 3-pointer with 7:13 to go.
“It’s a hot team,” Brown said of the Nets. “We wanted to come out and break some of their confidence.”
Brooklyn never seriously challenged thereafter, dropping its first game since a 122-105 loss at Toronto on Jan. 11.
The defeat left the Nets one game shy of their season-high seven-game inning streak from Dec. 7-19, a run that propelled them from lottery-bound to potentially playoff-bound.
Brooklyn sits in sixth place in the East, a game and a half ahead of seventh-place Miami.
If the Nets hope to reach the postseason for the first time in four seasons and win a playoff round for the first time since 2014, they will have to continue battling through this upcoming stretch until they return to relatively good health.
“It is what it is,” Russell said of Brooklyn’s growing list of injured players, which in addition to Dinwiddie includes Allen Crabbe (knee), Caris LeVert (foot), Treveon Graham (back) and Jared Dudley (hamstring).
“It’s something that we’re going into the game knowing that, so it’s not our excuse,” he added. “Everybody has to step up. It’s not the first time we’ve had to do that, but it’s definitely tougher.”
The Nets have been successful thus far at fending off this spate of injuries, but Dinwiddie’s heroics off the bench, coupled with Russell’s recent emergence as an All-Star hopeful, had been the formula for Brooklyn’s league-best 19-7 run since early December.
Now, the Nets (27-24) need to make sure that they get back to the business of sharing and taking care of the basketball in spite of their lack of firepower, both in the starting lineup and off the pine.
“That’s been part of our maturity and our confidence, not looking for the guys that are out,” Atkinson said as his team readied for Tuesday night’s tilt against slumping Chicago at Downtown’s Barclays Center.
Nothing But Net: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (shoulder) and Joe Harris (hip) are also nursing injuries for the Nets. Hollis-Jefferson contributed 14 points and nine rebounds against the Celtics, but Harris was limited to only five points on 2-of-8 shooting in 19 minutes of action. … After their home game against the Bulls on Tuesday night, the Nets will head out on the road for a two-game trip, beginning Thursday in San Antonio before Saturday night’s game in Orlando. … The Nets’ next win will be their 28th of the season, matching their total from the 2017-18 campaign. Also, Brooklyn enters Tuesday’s game vs. Chicago with an eight-game winning streak at Barclays Center.
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