Skeleton-crew Celtics get nothing but (Brooklyn) Nets, win 110-97
If you're still reading about the Boston Celtics' season (and more importantly, were enough of a stalwart to actually watch this nearly-meaningless game), your Celtics fandom is beyond reproach.
With many Boston fans paying at least as much attention (if not more) to other matchups going on today that actually will impact the Celtics' playoff seeding - also arguably meaningless given all the injuries besetting this team - it takes a lot of fandom to watch a game where your team's main interests are 1) not having anyone else get hurt, and 2) making the pick we traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers just a little bit less likely to be a good one.
That pick, controlled by the Cs until the Kyrie Irving trade, is a fitting one. We are ten years out from the title the "Big Three" won - Boston's last of 17 - and have run through all the picks the deal with tonight's opponent, the Brooklyn Nets, infamously coughed up to get access to the Celt's aging championship core. Tossing these guys a "W" to twist the knife a little is certainly poetic, but it doesn't exactly make for compelling basketball.
The starting lineup certainly signaled the nearness of the postseason, with Shane Larkin, Jabari Bird, Abdel Nader, Guerschon Yabusele and Aron Baynes getting the nod with Al Horford and Terry Rozier resting. The tip was won by Boston, but the Nets scored first. What followed next was about as fun to watch as you might guess, with both teams missing simple layups and turning the ball over. The score stayed close early, with Baynes and D'Angelo Russell providing the bulk of offensive action for their respective teams.
Boston began to pull away late in the first frame as Baynes caught fire, extended to ten on an alley-oop from Larkin at the 3:30 mark. The lead would shrink to just 27-22 by the end of the first quarter, mostly due to the efforts of Nik Stauskas. Dante Cunningham opened the next quarter with a pair of quick layups, cutting the lead to one before Caris LeVert briefly took the lead back for the Nets at 28-27. Stellar shooting from Jonathan Gibson and a dunk by Semi Ojeleye quickly put the Cs back on top.
Greg Monroe, Ojeleye and Bird pushed the lead to eleven before Jarrett Allen and Allen Crabbe cut it back down to 43-39 at the four-minute mark. Abdel Nader and Yabusele (who's knee looked quite alright) both heated up as the first half wound down, however, pushing Boston's lead back up to close the half 53-43 in favor of the Celtics.
The third quarter opened with the Dancing Bear getting himself to the charity stripe, converting both for the biggest lead of the night, at 55-43. Aron soon hit a career-high 22 points at the 9:30 mark. He'd extend that to 24 just a minute later, and 26 a minute after that. A trey from Larkin pushed the lead to 19 just before the 7-minute mark, and Yabu would chip in one of his own to keep the cushion large despite Stauskas' best efforts.
Bird and Larkin extended the lead to 23 points as the third quarter began to wind down, but some quick buckets from Quincy Acy, Stauskas, Russell and Cunningham cut it to down to a much more manageable margin to close out the third quarter 83-70 in favor of the Celtics.
The season's final frame began with a bucket from Moose, who extended the lead back to 19 with another pair of jumpers. Crabbe, Stauskas and Milton Doyle (who?) chipped away at the lead, cutting it to 95-83 with 6:30 left in the 2017-17 Celtics season. The game stayed just out of reach for the Nets as the game drew new the end, largely on the efforts of Monroe, Yabusele and Kadeem Allen. Brooklyn never got closer than eleven in the final minutes, losing to Boston 110-97 as the Celtics closed their season with 55 wins, anxiously awaiting the results of other contests to learn their first-round opponent in the playoffs.