Nets close in on playoffs despite loss
Celtics blow out Brooklyn in potential clincher
All the momentum the Brooklyn Nets gained in their historic upset victory over the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday afternoon withered away during Wednesday night’s blowout loss to the Boston Celtics.
The Nets, who defied the oddsmakers as 19 1/2-point underdogs by pulling off a 119-116 triumph over the team with the NBA’s best record 24 hours earlier, hardly put up a fight in dropping a 149-115 decision to the Celtics at the NBA’s bubble site in Orlando, Florida.
“Obviously, tough game for us,” said Brooklyn sharpshooter Joe Harris. “We came out and played with the same energy we had the last two games. Then, we kind of got away from what led to a lot of our successes these last two games.
“We didn’t rebound the ball well, we didn’t defend well, a lot of turnovers, not a lot of assists. We weren’t making that extra pass that we have been, and there were a lot of 50-50 balls that we didn’t get either. We just got outworked. Against a team that is obviously just more talented, you’re going to lose the way we did.”
Despite the lopsided defeat one day after posting the biggest against-the-odds upset the league had seen in 27 years, Brooklyn made progress in its push toward a second straight postseason berth when the ninth-seeded Washington Wizards suffered a 107-98 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Nets (32-36), currently seeded seventh in the Eastern Conference, are 7 1/2 games ahead of the Wizards with four games remaining in the eight-game run-up to the NBA playoffs.
Brooklyn needs to be more than four games ahead of Washington in the standings at season’s end to avoid participating in a two-game play-in series with the Wizards for the final playoff spot in the East.
Any combination of one Nets win or one loss by Washington will give Brooklyn a postseason berth, something it can attain with a victory over the Sacramento Kings on Friday afternoon.
Jeremiah Martin scored a career-high 20 points and Harris added 14 for the Nets, who had a two-game winning streak snapped and fell to 2-2 since the league restarted following a five-month layoff due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“Obviously it would have been nice to secure that spot tonight,” said Brooklyn guard Caris LeVert, who finished with 13 points.
“But there’s always another opportunity,” he added. “Friday’s another day, another opportunity for us to go out there and compete for a full 48 minutes as a team. I think we’ll be ready for that task.”
In other Brooklyn basketball news, the Liberty announced Wednesday that injured point guard Sabrina Ionescu, the top overall pick in this year’s WNBA Draft, left her teammates in Bradenton, Florida and returned to New York to see an ankle and foot specialist.
The two-time Wooden Award winner out of the University of Oregon suffered what was originally diagnosed as a Grade 3 sprain of her left ankle during the second quarter of last Friday’s loss to the Atlanta Dream.
Ionescu, who is unlikely to return to the team during this abbreviated 22-game season, was averaging 18.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists during her first three games as a professional.
Her departure, coupled with the Liberty’s already inexperienced and short-handed roster, has left the team in disarray, as evidenced by a 92-66 loss to the Minnesota Lynx on Wednesday.
The winless Liberty (0-5), who were supposed to move to Barclays Center for their first full season in Brooklyn this summer, until the COVID-19 pandemic forced the league into its Florida bubble site, will return to action Friday night against the Washington Mystics at the IMG Academy.
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