– by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief
BOSTON — Marcus Smart says heard the chirping that the Brooklyn Nets’ bench directed at him the last time he went up against the up-and-coming squad two weeks ago, encouraging the Celtics’ guard, notorious for his streaky perimeter jumper, to keep chucking it up. On Monday, Smart made sure the Nets paid for their trash-talking by finding his stroke in the teams’ latest encounter.
Smart scored 11 of his 21 points in the first quarter, and Jaylen Brown also poured in 21 as the Celtics defeated the Brooklyn Nets 112-104 at TD Garden, exacting a little revenge from the Nets’ victory over Boston on Jan. 14 in Brooklyn.
Without Kyrie Irving in the lineup, resting a sore left hip, that allowed Smart, along with other members of the Celtics, the opportunity to create and take more shots from the field. Smart took advantage of that, especially in the first quarter, making four of his attempts from the floor, including two three-pointers.
Smart also finished the night with seven assists, five steals and two blocked shots.
“We’re professionals and you’ve got to move on to the next one,” Smart said, referring to Boston’s loss to the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night. “We were short, Kyrie wasn’t playing and they made a lot of our guys step up and we did that tonight.”
Most of the Celtics stepped up on the defensive end, as they ended up tying a franchise record by recording 16 blocks, with Al Horford recording six. Aron Baynes had three blocks while Smart, Marcus Morris and Jayson Tatum had two rejections each.
“I didn’t think we made the extra pass tonight,” said Nets coach Kenny Atkinson about the blocked shots. “When they are coming, we’ve got to kick it for open shots. I felt like it was a little too much put your head down and go against two guys at the rim. We’ve got to do a better job of making that extra pass.”
Brooklyn managed to stay competitive despite having six players missing the game through injury — five who receive substantial minutes. Point guard D’Angelo Russell scored 14 of his 25 points in the third quarter, making five of his shots shots in turning around a 12-point Brooklyn deficit and briefly giving the Nets the lead.
“Man, we’re pros. We’re pros, we know what we signed up for when it comes to taking care of your body, getting the rest and getting prepared for every game,” Russell said about playing through fatigue and with the team having a short bench.
The loss snapped the Nets’ six-game winning streak, as they also had won 19 of their last 24 contests before tonight.