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Nets take Beantown beatdown before break

Suffer 50-point loss to league-leading Celtics in Boston

February 15, 2024 John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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The Brooklyn Nets will enter the NBA All-Star break on a heartbreaking Valentine’s Day downer after suffering the second-worst loss in franchise history Wednesday night in front of 19,156 fans at Boston’s TD Garden.

After winning at Barclays Center for the eighth straight time a night earlier, the league-leading Celtics reminded the Nets just how far they were from seriously competing with the NBA’s elite.

Payton Prichard scored 28 points off the bench and Derrick White added 27 as Boston improved to 16-1, including a sweep in the 2022 playoffs, in its last 17 meetings with Brooklyn by cruising to a 136-86 whomping in the final game for both teams before the league’s week-long hiatus.

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“We have work to do,” Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said after watching his team fall behind by as many as 56 points before the Celtics tried to call of the dogs in this one-sided affair.

“We have to be OK doing the work,” he added. “I do believe this team can do the work.”

Jayson Tatum, who put up 41 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in Brooklyn on Tuesday, only logged 28 minutes in the home-and-home, back-to-back rematch.

The Net killer still amassed 20 points, pulled down seven boards and handed out nine assists for Boston (43-12), which hasn’t lost to Brooklyn in its own arena since April 23, 2021.

Jayson Tatum took the fourth quarter off after helping the Celtics hand the Nets the second-worst loss in franchise history Wednesday. AP Photo by Charles Krupa

Trendon Watford led all Nets scorers with 15 points off the bench, Mikal Bridges added 10 and reserve guard Keon Johnson finished with nine as Brooklyn trailed 30-15 after 12 minutes and an embarrassing 68-32 at intermission.

The Nets will enter the break a season-worst 12 games below .500 and 2 1/2 games behind 10th-place Atlanta for the final spot in the Eastern Conference’s play-in tournament.

Making matters worse, Brooklyn will return to action Feb. 22 in Toronto for the first of four straight road contests, including trips to Western Conference-leading Minnesota, Memphis and Orlando before returning to Barclays on Feb. 29 for the opener of a two-game set with the Hawks.

The Nets were hoping to carry the momentum from their late comeback in Tuesday’s 118-110 home loss to Boston into this one.

Instead, they finished one bucket away from matching the worst loss in team history, a 52-point setback in Houston on Oct. 18, 1978, when the franchise was based in New Jersey.

With new acquisitions Dennis Schroder and Keita Bates-Diop trying to find their roles with the team, Cam Johnson and Day’Ron Sharpe just back from injury and Ben Simmons, who sat out the second half of the back-to-back, still working back to full strength, the Nets might need this week off.

But when they get back, Vaughn and his charges will have to put forth a better performance than they did in dropping five of their last six contests.

“So use this as a reminder that we got our tails kicked tonight and that after the break it won’t be any easier,” Vaughn noted. “But we have to up for the challenge.”

Dating to Dec. 13, when they were a season-best three games above the break-even mark, the Nets have gone 8-23.

At least they won’t have the Celtics to deal with the rest of the campaign after suffering a 4-0 sweep to Boston this season.

Nets coach Jacque Vaughn believes his struggling team has what it takes to turn things around following the All-Star break. AP Photo by Charles Krupa

NOTHING BUT NET: The Nets will face former teammate Spencer Dinwiddie, dealt to the Raptors at last week’s NBA trade deadline for Schroder, when they resume play in Toronto. … Johnson, who missed four games with a strained abductor muscle, came off the bench to score four points and grab three rebounds in 18 minutes. Sharpe, playing his second straight game after sitting out with a hyperextended knee, was one of three Nets with seven points. He also had three rebounds, two assists and a steal in 13 minutes.

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