“Let’s Go Celtics” chants rained down from all corners of Barclays Center as the Brooklyn Nets’ season came to a frustrating end on Monday night in Game 4.
In a game where the Nets finally saw Kevin Durant look like himself for the first time in the playoffs and their role players do everything they could to keep the season going, it came down to missed free throws and opportunities in a 116-112 loss to the Boston Celtics. It marked the fourth time in the Brooklyn era that the franchise had been eliminated from the postseason on home court.
Monday night marked one of the best efforts the Nets have shown since their Game 1 overtime loss and looked as though they could have extended the series by one more game when they rallied back in the fourth. But as it has been all year, it was costly mistakes and missed opportunities that did the Nets in.
Brooklyn shot an ugly 58.6% from the free-throw line, which included a 1-for-11 performance by Nic Claxton who played a very solid game otherwise. Kevin Durant may have missed the biggest free throw of the night with 22.2 seconds left in the game and would have made it a one-point game.
The Celtics managed to grab the rebound and take it the other way to make it a two-possession game. The Nets also never managed to fully take advantage of the absence of Jayson Tatum, who fouled out of the game with 2:49 left in the game.
The Nets opened the fourth quarter on a 6-0 run that sliced the Celtics lead to six off a pair of buckets from Seth Curry and a jumper from Kevin Durant. After Boston was able to put some space between themselves and Brooklyn, but the home side kept pushing and inside the final five minutes they had pulled back within one.
Kyrie Irving, who finished with 20 points but didn’t fully show up until late in the game, hit a three to make it a three-point game with 2:31 left. Durant followed it up with a floating jump shot to make it a 109-108 Celtics lead with 1:28 on the clock.
The Nets now have five months to look back and wonder what could have been after a season full of chaos and oddities. Brooklyn dealt with COVID issue, injures to some of its best players and played a third of the year without Irving due to his unvaccinated status.
They also had James Harden leave after becoming unhappy with the situation in Brooklyn and played without Ben Simmons ever making his debut for the team that traded for him at the deadline.
Durant finished the game with 39 points on 13-of-31 shooting in 47 minutes of work. Curry had 20 points for Brooklyn and Claxton shot 6-of-6 from the field, despite the poor free-throw shooting, and had 13 points.
The Celtics got off to a quick lead after the opening tip. Jaylen Brown put up four points in the first two-plus minutes of the first quarter as Boston jumped out to an 8-2 lead by the 9:14 mark.
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The Nets managed to close the gap and with 7:31 Durant scored his sixth point of the quarter to tie the game at 10, but the Celtics responded with a 10-0 run to build a 22-12 lead. A running dunk from Durant with 1:59 left helped pull Brooklyn within six and by the end of the first 12 minutes a Claxton dunk made the deficit just four points.
Two quick buckets — a hook shot by Dragic and a pull-up jumper by Curry — tied the game at 30 by the 10:22 mark. Tatum hit back-to-back threes to put the Celtics back in front moments later.
A Marcus Smart three gave the Celtics their largest lead of the period, 45-36, with 4:55 left in the half. The Nets managed to widdle that down to just one thanks to threes from Durant and Curry, and a driving floater by Irving sprinkled in the middle.
Boston, however, gave themselves a cushion as they went on a 13-6 run to end the half with Grant Williams knocking down a three with 2.1 seconds left on the clock.