Celtics Defeat Nets in In-Season Tournament Opener
By Staff Writer
BOSTON — Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla approached his team’s first In-Season Tournament game like any other regular-season matchup. However, the Celtics played with a sense of urgency and purpose, resulting in a 121-107 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night.
Leading the charge for Boston was Jaylen Brown, who scored 28 points and made five of the team’s 19 3-pointers. Jayson Tatum also had a strong performance with 23 points and 10 rebounds, helping the Celtics snap a two-game losing streak and secure a win in their tournament opener.
“It’s a learning curve. We’re still figuring stuff out… Learning from one another,” Brown said. “Long season to go, and it’s all about building trust, building chemistry out there.”
The Celtics’ bench, which had struggled in their previous losses, stepped up in this game, contributing 37 points. Sam Hauser scored 15 points, while Payton Pritchard added 13 points. Mazzulla praised Pritchard’s impact on the court, emphasizing the intangibles he brings to the team.
“To me, he changed the game for us,” Mazzulla said. “It’s easy to look at the scoring on the bench and feel like they’re not producing. But it’s so much other stuff that they do for us on a daily basis. Tonight we got to see the other side of that.”
On the Nets’ side, Lonnie Walker IV led the team with 20 points and seven rebounds. Trendon Watford contributed 14 points, while Mikal Bridges and Spencer Dinwiddie both finished with 12 points. Despite their efforts, Brooklyn dropped to 1-1 in East Group C play.
The Celtics dominated the first half, leading by as many as 17 points and knocking down 12 3-pointers. They took care of the ball, committing only two turnovers, and entered halftime with a 66-54 advantage.
In the third quarter, the Nets mounted a comeback, outscoring the Celtics 30-27 and reducing the deficit to just nine points entering the fourth. However, Boston responded with an 18-6 run to regain control of the game and secure the victory.
TD Garden underwent a transformation for the tournament, featuring a tournament-themed look with the image of the new NBA Cup trophy beneath the word “Boston” at midcourt. The atmosphere remained electric throughout the game.
Looking ahead, the Nets will host the Wizards on Sunday, while the Celtics will face the Raptors on Saturday.