The Brooklyn Nets faced their first test in the aftermath of Jarrett Jack’s season-ending knee injury, and they needed just one quarter to find out how integral he is to their success–if they didn’t know already. Brooklyn committed eight turnovers in the first quarter, allowing the Boston Celtics to build a 37-22 lead early in Barclays Center Monday night. That was all the Celtics needed, as they held on for a 103-94 win.
The Nets performed ably, outscoring the Celtics in the remaining three quarters. The old adage eventually proved to be true: you can’t win the game in the first quarter but you can lose it. Brooklyn set an untenable face by allowing Boston to get out in the open floor and score on fast breaks. The Celtics tallied 11 fast break points in the first quarter. The two teams split the home-and-home after the Nets won, 100-97, Saturday afternoon.
Jack had been mounting a quietly successful season up until his ACL injury. While his numbers don’t jump off the page (12.8 PPG, 7.4 APG, and 4.3 RPG), his intangibles gave the Nets a chance, especially against some of the league’s better teams. His ability to get the Nets into their offense sets will be sorely missed more so than his numbers.
“I think [losing Jack] is huge,” forward Thaddeus Young said. “You know, sometimes you have that feel with different players and right now it’s all about getting acclimated with Shane (Larkin) in the point guard spot and (Donald) Sloan in the point guard spot. Some things Jarrett sees that they don’t see, and that’s from Jarrett playing with us most of the time, the majority of the time.”
In the first quarter, the team operated like a rudderless ship. They did, however, quiet down and finished the game with 14 turnovers. Larkin started in place of the injured Jack, who will miss the remainder of the season. Sloan came off the bench and played well in his 21 minutes of action (five points, four rebounds, three assists).
As it’s been all season, the Nets are a work in progress. Unfortunately, the ball-handling position will take the most work. Brooklyn finished the game with just 16 assists, and Joe Johnson finished with a team-high four.
“Obviously, there’s going to be changes and variations and differences, but we don’t want to use that as an excuse,” center Brook Lopez said. “We’ve all played together before, it’s just for more minutes.”
Lopez echoed Hollins’ sentiments on Jack’s absence and the team’s early turnovers. “If you want to make excuses then yes, there is always a rationalization for anything bad that happens, both on the court and in life, if you choose to,” Hollins said. “But I choose to say that we have to keep working and get better. We have had some magical moments with Jarrett and we’ve had some ugly moments with Jarrett. I’m not going to put that on Jarrett; that is on the team that is playing now.”
Even when the Nets still had Deron Williams on the roster, Hollins leaned on Jack down the stretch of most games. Hollins could trust Jack in crunch time, and this bunch will need to find new leaders. Johnson is the most likely candidate to see his role increase. While he won’t play any more minutes, he will likely spend more time with the ball in his hands.
According to Larkin, he felt comfortable in his new role, and he has played extended minutes this season even while Jack was healthy. “I don’t feel there was a point out there where I wasn’t comfortable,” he said. “It was just not being aggressive, not really going out there and impacting the game the way I can and have in the past. I’ve just got to go out there and play my game and stop thinking so much and just play.”
News and notes
The two teams split the season series, 2-2. Of the Nets’ 10 wins this year, four have come against the Celtics and Houston Rockets.
Brook Lopez received the Eastern Conference player of the week award prior to the game.
In the loss, Thaddeus Young registered his 18th double-double with 23 points and a season-high 15 rebounds. He notched double-doubles in all four meetings with the Celtics in 2015-16. The last player to accomplish such a feat against Boston was Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond.