Celtics aim to end skid in Brooklyn

A pair of Atlantic Division rivals hoping to rebound from tough showings get together Monday night when the Brooklyn Nets host the Boston Celtics.

It will be the second meeting in the last week and the Celtics dominated in a 116-95 win at Boston last Monday when the Nets allowed 30 points off 25 turnovers.

The loss to Boston is one of five losses in the last 18 games since Dec. 5 for the Nets (21-23). Another was Friday’s 122-105 loss in Toronto when Brooklyn trailed by 26 at one point and got outscored 71-40 in the second and third quarters.

Kyrie Irving
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The losses to the Celtics and Raptors dropped Brooklyn’s record to 6-13 against teams with winning records. The Nets have eight more games against teams with winning records before the All-Star break, including a trip to Houston on Wednesday and another visit to Boston in two weeks.

“If you say you’re going to be a playoff team, we have to beat playoff teams,” Brooklyn forward Ed Davis said Friday. “It’s easy to beat the Hawks and Knicks and teams like that, but you really see where you’re at when you play Toronto, Boston at Houston, at Orlando, games like that. You really see where you’re at. Get back to me around this time next week, and I’ll have a better idea where we’re at.”

The Nets only lost consecutive games in this hot stretch Dec. 28-29, but that was when tip-off in Milwaukee was 22 hours after the opening tip in Charlotte and D’Angelo Russell was rested.

Russell will play Monday after scoring 24 points in the loss to Toronto and the rest of the Nets will hope to follow suit. The team shot just 42 percent and only one other player scored in double figures in that loss.

“I rarely say this about our team, but I didn’t love the effort and execution,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said after his team lost by at least 15 points for the fourth time. “When you have both of those go wrong, that’s when you get beat by 20. To beat an elite team on the road, our effort and our execution was nowhere near where it needed to be.

“We got good guys. They understand it. They understand we’ve got Boston coming up, and if we have the same effort and execution, you’re going to take a (blowout loss) on the chin. This was a little bit of humble pie.”

Boston heads to Brooklyn looking to avoid three straight losses for the third time. The Celtics also lost three straight Nov. 17-21 and Dec. 15-21 and won seven of nine before taking a 115-99 loss at Miami on Thursday and a 105-103 loss in Orlando two nights later.

On Thursday, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris were involved in a shoving match during a timeout and both players said they moved on. Two nights later, the Celtics coughed up a 12-point lead and the game ended with Jayson Tatum missing a potential game-tying fadeaway shot at the buzzer.

On Saturday, Tatum got the ball off a quick inbound pass from Gordon Hayward. As the Celtics walked off the court, Kyrie Irving appeared annoyed at Hayward’s decision making for inbounding the ball early.

Afterward, Irving vented his frustrations about some of the inexperience of Boston’s younger players and about being the fifth-best team in the Eastern Conference.

“I think that what we’re facing now is nothing compared to being on that stage trying to get a gold trophy,” Irving said, alluding to the Larry O’Brien trophy. “It’s hard now, what do you think it’s going to be when we get to the Finals? Let alone, (expletive), we’re trying to play a position right now trying to get a great seed.

“That should be our No. 1 goal, and that right there is a realization for me that, even when I’m thinking about the future, I gotta think about how do we get there? But what steps do we need to hit? That’s a goal first, just getting a seed. We can’t be comfortable being in fifth.”

Irving, who is questionable for tomorrow with a right quad contusion, scored 15 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter Saturday when Boston shot 29 percent. The Celtics also were outscored 47-33 in the final 16 minutes of Saturday’s loss.

The Celtics have won the last 10 meetings with the Nets since a 100-97 home loss on Jan. 2, 2016.

–Field Level Media