The gap between the top team in the Eastern Conference and the Boston Celtics is a sizeable one at the moment.
The undermanned Brooklyn Nets were missing three rotation players but had little problem dispatching the Celtics Wednesday night at the TD Garden as the Nets cruised to a 123-104 victory.
Here are five thoughts from the game as the Celtics (10-9) took a tumble:
A frustrating night for Tatum
As the final seconds ticked away in the first half, Jayson Tatum fired the ball the length of the court and it rocketed off the shot clock. It was a half-hearted desperation attempt, but more so a showing of frustration that boiled over for Tatum.
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Tatum, who had registered four straight games of scoring at least 30 points, struggled mightily, making just 4-of-16 shots, including going 1-for-9 from beyond the arc, and scoring 15 points, with only six points coming in the second half.
Aside from the recent promising stretch, it’s been a tumultuous start to the season for the two-time All-Star. Tatum is recording career-lows in both field goal percentage and three-point percentage.
Jaylen Brown, who was a game-time decision as he continues to make his way back from a right hamstring strain, wasn’t much better than Tatum in the loss. Brown netted 13 points on 5-of-15 shooting.
Déjà vu third quarter
Against an inferior opponent, the Celtics broke things open in a win over the Houston Rockets Monday by going on a 24-3 run to start the third quarter. The Nets did the same thing to the Celtics.
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Brooklyn began the second half with an 18-3 tear to seize complete control as Patty Mills, who hit 7-of-10 three-pointers and scored a game-high 23 points, punctuated the spurt by draining a trey to have a 62-49 halftime advantage balloon into a 28-point lead.
While Kevin Durant and James Harden are Brooklyn’s catalysts, it was the supporting cast, led by Mills and LaMarcus Aldridge (17 points, 9 rebounds) that gave the Celtics all sorts of problems.
Celtics coach Ime Udoka wasn’t thrilled with his team’s inability to follow the scouting report when it came to Mills as Boston didn’t do a good job chasing him off the 3-point line and making him put the ball on the floor.
“I do get frustrated when the game plan isn’t followed for particular guys,” Udoka said. “Like I mentioned, if he gets four open threes with only one dribble, that’s a lack of understanding who he is and he’s been around long enough for us to know that.”
Celtics did battle back
While the Celtics could have packed it in after they trailed by 29 points in the third quarter, Boston did show some fight with a strong comeback bid. Sparked by the hustle and effort of Marcus Smart (team-high 20 points, 8 assists), the Celtics put together a 17-0 run bridging the third and fourth quarters to get within 12 with 9:23 remaining.
But the hole was way too big to climb out of and even though it’s a positive that the Celtics didn’t entirely quit, it resembled all too well of what they did a season ago when they tried to routinely rally from large deficits only to ultimately fall short.
“They came out the more aggressive team,” said Al Horford. “I think we probably gave them too much respect in my opinion. They are what they are. They’re a good team. But at the end of the day, this a good learning experience for our group and I hope when we play them next time, I know that we’ll be better.”
Three-pointers fly with little success
The Celtics shot selection versus the Nets was puzzling early on. Despite struggling from 3-point range — the Celtics shot 22.9 percent (11-for-48) from deep for the game — they kept hoisting them up.
For Boston, 14 out of its first 22 shots were 3-pointers and it’s not like those attempts were falling with the Celtics only knocking down two of them. Relying too much on the three, especially for a team that is bottom third in the NBA in 3-point percentage, is a bad habit the Celtics weren’t exhibiting when they won eight out of 11 games.
Brown led the misfiring from deep by going 0-for-8 on 3-point attempts.
“I always want our guys, if it’s an open shot and they feel good, take it. You have to take it they way that this game goes,” Horford said. “When I was out there, it felt like we were taking good shots. I do think that we need to put more pressure on the rim and we settled at times with that.”
Enes Kanter started this season firmly out of Boston’s rotation, not seeing action in 11 of the Celtics first 13 games and playing just minimally in the two contests he got in to. But Kanter has slowly earned the trust of Udoka and showed he deserves more of a chance as the Celtics continue to search for contributors off the bench — the Celtics came into the matchup with the Nets second-to-last in the NBA in bench scoring.
The veteran big, who finished with seven points, five rebounds and two blocks, turned in his typical offensive rebounding to extend possessions and as a surprise, provided some quality defense, which isn’t Kanter’s strong suit. In the final minute of the first half, Kanter was able to close out on Paul Millsap in the corner and swat away his 3-point attempt.
This article originally appeared on The Enterprise: Five thoughts as Boston Celtics outclass by Brooklyn Nets