The Nets, down 28 to the Celtics, are making the NBA’s biggest comeback of the season

Tim BontempsESPN4 minute reading

BOSTON – The Brooklyn Nets entered TD Garden for Friday night’s game against the Boston Celtics riding a four-game losing streak.

Then, midway through the second quarter, Brooklyn was staring at a 28-point deficit — and seemed well on its way to a fifth straight loss.

The Nets, however, had other ideas.

“There was a point in the first quarter, early in the second quarter, where we looked at each other and said, ‘We’re not going out this way,’ and it kind of brought us together,” Nets forward Cam Johnson said.

It didn’t just bring Brooklyn together—it also served as a catalyst for a truly remarkable turn of events. Not only did the Nets find a way to get back into the game, they were able to completely erase that deficit early in the third quarter and never looked back. They came away with 115-105 over the former East-leading Celtics in front of a shell-shocked crowd.

The Brooklyn win was the biggest comeback win of the season by any NBA team, according to ESPN Stats & Information polls, and tied for the biggest comeback of any team over the past 25 seasons.

It was also a 10-game losing streak for the Nets against the Celtics, including last season’s playoffs.

“I think we took our foot off the gas,” said Jaylen Brown, who led Boston with 35 points, “and [Brooklyn] just increased the pressure a bit.”

What was a celebratory atmosphere in the opening minutes of the game — one Boston led 37-15 after one quarter and 51-23 with 7:23 left in the second — was replaced by consternation and several rounds of boos as Brooklyn continued. a ridiculous 83-39 run over a 24-minute, 29-second span.

“We got off to a good start,” said Jayson Tatum, who had 22 points, 13 rebounds and 5 assists while going 10-for-23 from the field and 0-for-8 from 3 (the most 3s he’s ever attempted in a match without making one). “Lost our composure a little bit as a group. They kept rolling, we didn’t necessarily get it back. It just got tough to come back.”

When Boston roared out of the gate, it looked like it was going to be an easy night for the Celtics (45-19), who are now two losses behind the Milwaukee Bucks for the top spot in the Eastern Conference standings. But even as the Celtics took a 37-15 lead after the first quarter, coach Joe Mazzulla was concerned about how the game was going — especially that Brooklyn was making more 3s than Boston early.

“I was actually worried because we scored, but it wasn’t because we made shots,” Mazzulla said. “It was because we were getting layups. And they’re a very analytically good team. And so I knew the tide was going to shift because they were going to keep shooting 3s and if we weren’t playing at a level shooting 3s and getting offensive rebound and take care of the ball, it was going to cost us.”

There was a similar feeling on Brooklyn’s side, as the Nets felt that if they could stop making mistakes that allowed Boston to get one easy bucket after another, there was more than enough time to make a game.

“It really does,” Johnson said when asked if early leads — because of the amount of 3s taken in Friday’s game — might feel smaller than they once did. “Especially when you know you’re just messing up a lot, and that’s why. In the NBA, managers aren’t safe. Leads just aren’t safe, you know? People go on runs. Sometimes shots go in. , sometimes do they don’t.

“And so you just have to stick to the script, keep your head down and keep working and we had that effort across the board today and the result was a win.”

The Nets were led by 38 points from Mikal Bridges, whose two highest-scoring games have now come in his first eight games with Brooklyn.Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

It also happened in part because Mikal Bridges had another explosive scoring game for the Nets. Bridges finished with 38 points — 32 of which came after the first quarter — on 13-for-22 shooting, including 4-for-6 from 3-point range, to go along with 10 rebounds, 4 assists and a steal.

Bridges now has the two highest-scoring games of his career — 45 points in a win over Miami last month and the 38 points he scored against Boston — in his first eight games with the Nets, having played 365 games over the first four. -plus seasons of his NBA career with Phoenix.

“Just trying to be aggressive, man,” Bridges said. “The whole thing is just going out there and winning and I feel like if I get to any of my spots … I feel like I can do it [shots].”

In doing so, the Nets (35-28) — now 2½ games ahead of the Heat for the sixth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference — surprised the Celtics, who also nearly blew a big lead in Wednesday’s win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Mazzulla, in addition to saying his team “let off the gas,” also pointed to how the Nets dominated every statistical category — from taking and making more 3s and free throws to getting more offensive rebounds to taking more shots — as a example of how his team simply did not do enough to win the game.

Now, he said, it’s up to the Celtics to do better in those situations going forward.

“You have to be able to handle it,” Mazzulla said. “You can’t get comfortable. It’s hard to say, it’s very hard to do, but you try to work through those situations so you say, ‘Oh, is it really preventable?’

“No, it’s not. Every team has done it. And so, to me, the area comes with growth and the opportunity to make sure it doesn’t happen again if we’re in that situation again.”

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