Paul Pierce‘s first game against his former team had to be this ugly. The Nets and Celtics combined for 95 missed field goals and 43 turnovers in a brutal 82-80 Brooklyn victory, and that doesn’t even do it justice.
The Celtics held Pierce to just four points on six shots in 27 minutes, but Brooklyn bigs Brook Lopez and Andray Blatche, who started in place of a reluctantly resting Kevin Garnett, combined for 34 points in a winning effort.
Meanwhile, five Celtics scored in double figures — Courtney Lee (14 points), Kris Humphries (12), Jeff Green (12), Kelly Olynyk (10) and Jordan Crawford (10) — as the C’s showed some encouraging signs despite dropping to 1-4 in their first preseason without Pierce since 1998.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Foul play: Young bigs Jared Sullinger and Olynyk have been serial hackers. They entered the game combining for a personal foul once every six minutes, and then committed five in 19 first-half minutes. Sullinger avoided foul trouble the rest of the way, but Olynyk fouled out in 18 minutes. The two complement each other wonderfully and should play big minutes together this season — unless whistles keep them on the bench.
Heart Pierce-ing: Needless to say, the sight of Pierce in a Nets uniform was jarring. Same plodding, no-lift-left-in-those-legs preseason approach, same deliberate, cut-like-a-knife-through-the-lane results. He scored just four points on six shots, but fed Brooklyn’s bigs and filled the stat sheet (10 rebounds, 5 assists, block, steal).
Layup line: Along with Green, Avery Bradley has been the C’s most predominant preseason shooter. While that’s encouraging, Bradley attempted six of his 13 shots within 4 feet and only made one — an uncontested dunk. Only a handful of NBA regulars last season were worse at the rim than Bradley’s 51.5 percent clip inside of 3 feet. That must change if he hopes to pair double-digit scoring with his perennially feisty defense.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Over the Hump: It was quite a night for Humphries. Not only did he finally produce the way he’s proved capable in nine previous NBA seasons, amassing 12 points and eight boards in 28 minutes off the bench, but he scored $749,000 at auction for his ex-wife’s engagement ring on Tuesday. Two steps forward.
In their defense: The Celtics shot just 35.6 percent from the field and totaled more turnovers (22) than assists (20), so they must have done something right to stay in a game with the Nets — even if Brooklyn rested seven players, including Garnett and Jason Terry. Led by Bradley’s incessant energy, the C’s forced 21 turnovers and held Brooklyn to 82 points on 35.5 percent shooting (14.3 percent from 3) — by far their best defensive effort.
Superb Lee: Lee has been the forgotten man, shooting just 8-of-24 from the field and apparently losing a starting backcourt spot to Jordan Crawford. But Lee’s effort against the Nets might change Brad Stevens‘ mind. He scored a team-high 14 points on 3-of-6 shooting from 3-point range, including back-to-back 3-pointers to pull the Celtics even late in the fourth quarter. Lee added four rebounds, three steals and a block on the night.
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