With their grip on a playoff spot slipping, the Celtics snapped a three-game losing streak in convincing fashion, defeating the fellow Eastern Conference postseason contending Nets 110-91 in Brooklyn on the second night of a back-to-back.
The Celtics won on the back end of a back-to-back for the eighth time in nine tries and improved to 31-39, which combined with a loss by the Pacers (30-40) vaults them back into the East’s eighth seed. The Nets dropped to 29-40, and while they remain only a half-game back of the C’s, Boston’s victory gives them a 3-1 head-to-head tiebreaker for the season.
Avery Bradly led all Celtics with 20 points, and Evan Turner submitted a triple-double (19 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds). Kelly Olynyk and Tyler Zeller each added 18 points, Brandon Bass netted 12 and Jonas Jerebko finished with 10. Seven different Celtics grabbed at least five rebounds.
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The Celtics submitted a ridiculously efficient second quarter, scoring 31 points on 65 percent shooting, while holding the Nets to a 35 percent clip on the other end. Brandon Bass (3-3 FG), Evan Turner (4-5 FG) and Jonas Jerebko (4-7 FG) each scored eight points in the frame, as the C’s outscored Brooklyn 31-21 and flipped a five-point, first-quarter deficit into a 54-49 advantage entering halftime.
Given the numbers, the Celtics should have been running the Nets out of the Barclays Center by the break. Boston shot better than 50 percent while holding Brooklyn to 18-for-52 shooting in the opening 24 minutes — including 1-for-8 from 3-point range — and the C’s committed six turnovers leading to just four Nets points in that span. So, how were the visitors only leading by five? Brooklyn grabbed 14 offensive rebounds to Boston’s three, outscoring the Celtics 16-0 in second-chance points. The Celtics made huge strides in that regard in the second half, holding the Nets to four second-chance points on two offensive boards in the final 24 minutes.
Evan Turner had a February to forget in the shooting department, making just 30 percent of 102 attempts in the month. Outside the restricted area, he converted only 19-of-75 shots for a dismal 25.3 percent in those 11 games. But he’s bounced back to respectability in March, entering Monday night’s game having made 43 percent of his attempts this month. He improved upon that mark against the Nets, converting 9-of-13 shots for 19 points to go along with his 12 assists (against two turnovers) and 10 rebounds. The triple-double was just the second of his career, and the other came on Feb. 25.
As bad as Turner had been, Kelly Olynyk might’ve been worse. He entered the game shooting just 30 percent from the field, 26 percent on three 3-pointers per game and an underwhelming 54 percent from the line since missing 19 straight games with an ankle injury at midseason. In 17 minutes off the bench against the Nets, he exploded for his most well-rounded performance in months, scoring 18 points on 12 shots, including 3-of-5 shooting from distance. Olynyk added five rebounds, a couple assists and some occasionally solid defense — one aspect of his game the C’s maintain has been much improved this season.
THE CURIOUS CASE OF BROOK LOPEZ
Since the emergence of Mason Plumlee over the summer and for the first half of the season, the Nets nearly parted ways with their 7-foot center for little in return, so it stands to reason his $16.7 million expiring contract could be had this summer. His emergence has coincided with Brooklyn’s resurgence, and he submitted his second 30-point night in three games. On the other hand, Monday also saw the other side of the 2013 NBA All-Star, as seven different Celtics out-rebounded Lopez on the night, raising questions about whether he would be worth any asking price in the offseason.