NEW YORK — Boston coach Brad Stevens thought his Celtics tightened up down the stretch of a tough home loss March 23 that dropped them out of playoff position.
The Celtics made the final minutes stress-free March 24 — and the reward was a spot right back in the top eight.
Evan Turner had 19 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds, and Boston beat the Brooklyn Nets 110-91 to snap a three-game losing streak.
Avery Bradley scored 20 points to lead the Celtics, who moved a half-game ahead of Charlotte for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Tyler Zeller and Kelly Olynyk each had 18 points for Boston, which quickly pulled away in the third quarter to bounce back from a 105-97 overtime loss to Detroit at home on March 23.
“I was really pleased with how we responded to losing a tough one last night and then playing not great the first 6 minutes of the game,” Stevens said. “We just responded.”
Brook Lopez scored 31 points for the Nets, who had won two in a row to give themselves renewed playoff hopes. But they endured bad nights all over the roster, from Joe Johnson (3 for 11) to Jarrett Jack (1 for 9) to Alan Anderson (2 for 9).
Boston claimed the tiebreaker by winning the season series 3-1 and moves on to another important game Wednesday at home against Miami. The Nets head to Charlotte and probably welcome another key game on the road after falling to 12-20 in their home arena.
“We knew this was a big game, you guys knew this was a big game,” Nets guard Deron Williams said. “It wasn’t just one game like it normally is when you lose to a team when you fall back one game in the standings. This was actually two because of the tiebreaker. Now they have the tiebreaker.”
Boston scored nine straight to open a 71-57 cushion midway through the third quarter. When the Nets trimmed it to five — helped by going 9 of 10 at the free throw line in the period — the Celtics responded by pushing it back to double digits in the final minute before taking an 83-74 lead into the fourth.
“I’m just glad we were able to keep our head, not drop our head,” Turner said. “I think last night Coach spoke on that and we just stayed with it and it helped out a lot.”
Zeller made all five shots for 10 points in 10 minutes of the third quarter, then Olynyk scored seven straight early in the fourth to give the Celtics a 96-80 with 8:19 to play.
The only work left from there was for Turner to chase down the rebounds he needed for his second career triple-double, both in the last month. He knew he was close when he heard a fan yell to Zeller to stay away from rebounds so Turner could get it.
Marcus Smart was back for Boston after being suspended one game for punching San Antonio’s Matt Bonner in the groin, which Stevens called an “unacceptable play.” Smart started but was replaced by Jae Crowder to open the third quarter.
Williams had 10 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds for the Nets, who went 1 for 17 (6 percent) from 3-point range.
“I’m disappointed that we couldn’t make shots, but that’s part of the game,” coach Lionel Hollis said. “We scrambled. We battled.”
(BRIAN MAHONEY, AP Basketball Writer)
Source: The National Herald