Boston 98, Brooklyn 95
When: 7:30 PM ET, Friday, March 17, 2017
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn
BROOKLYN – (Special to Digital Sports Desk by The Sports Xchange) – Throughout the NCAA Tournament, teams win close games and describe the feeling as “survive and advance.”
Missing Isaiah Thomas’ ability to score in bunches and consistently make plays, the Boston Celtics experienced the pro version of survive and advance. And, without Jae Crowder, Boston might not have survived Friday night. Crowder collected season highs of 24 points and 12 rebounds as the Celtics overcame the absence of Thomas and held on for a 98-95 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.
“I thought Jae Crowder was terrific tonight,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said.
Thomas missed the first of at least two games with a bone bruise on his right knee and fifth game overall this season. Without their leading scorer, the Celtics struggled most of the night to get offense.
Crowder was the exception as he made 7 of 11 shots from the field and all three of his attempts in the fourth quarter. Crowder highlighted his seventh double-double with two key plays in crunch time.
“Tonight we had to find ways and Jae Crowder answered the call,” Boston center Al Horford said.
“Jae can make big plays for us and it’s just all about opportunity and tonight he had a opportunity to make some plays that our team needed,” Celtics guard Avery Bradley said. “He came into the game and he made some really big shots for us.”
With the score in an 85-85 deadlock, Crowder took a pass from Horford and spotted up from the left side for a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 3:38 remaining.
With 2:59 remaining, Crowder drove by Quincy Acy and threw down a one-handed baseline dunk much to the delight of the Celtics’ fans sitting behind the basket and throughout Barclays Center.
Crowder then ran behind the net to flex his muscles in celebration and completed the three-point play for a 91-85 lead.
“We knew it was a good amount of Celtics’ fans in the building tonight,” Crowder said.
Despite those plays, it was a struggle to the finish for the Celtics, who exhaled when Brook Lopez missed a 25-foot 3-pointer with 5.9 seconds remaining and again when Acy missed a 25-footer with 1.9 left.
“Ah yes,” Horford said when asked if there was a sense of relief for Boston after the final play. “That was a very long nine seconds, nine seconds.”
Besides Crowder, others helped Boston improve to 2-3 without Thomas.
Bradley added 16 points, though he missed the front end of two foul shots with 9.1 seconds left before Brooklyn’s final attempts to tie. Horford contributed 14 points and eight rebounds. Marcus Smart started for Thomas and chipped in 12 points, including four free throws in the final 24 seconds.
Lopez led the Nets with 23 points, but it was not enough for Brooklyn, which was seeking its first winning streak since March 24-26. Randy Foye added 14 points for the Nets, who are 0-11 on the second night of a back to back.
“I was confident and it felt good,” Lopez said of his last-second 3-point attempt. “I thought it was going in.”
Before needing Crowder’s big plays and surviving the final seconds, the Celtics led by 10 points with about two minutes remaining in the third quarter and settled for a 71-65 edge going into the fourth.
The Nets opened the fourth by hitting three straight 3-pointers and led 76-73 on two free throws by Isaiah Whitehead with 8:26 remaining. The Nets never led again despite getting the game into three deadlocks before Crowder’s 3-pointer.
“Credit to them, they hit some big shots at the end,” Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson said.
NOTES: Boston coach Brad Stevens said at the morning shootaround that G Isaiah Thomas’ right knee swelled up in the last game. Stevens said he hopes Thomas can play Monday against the Washington Wizards. … Brooklyn F Trevor Booker (left leg soreness) missed the game. Coach Kenny Atkinson said the injury is “not a big deal” and expects Booker to play Sunday against Dallas. … Nets G Joe Harris (sprained left shoulder) missed his eighth straight game and G Sean Kilpatrick (strained left hamstring) missed his second in a row. Stevens is an Indiana native and his name inevitably came up in rumors about the Indiana job after Tom Crean was fired Thursday “So I’ve been asked about that quite a bit,” Stevens said. “I’ll just keep saying the same thing to keep saying the same thing, I’m going to be here until the Celtics decide they want to move in another direction.”