BOSTON — The Nets thought they could play with the Celtics, and not just because they allegedly were struggling before Wednesday’s game.
Confidence isn’t a problem for the Nets. They think they can play with anyone, and they should. But they shouldn’t be overconfident and were not suggesting that they were in this game. To beat the defending champs, though, you have to execute well on both ends, want the rebound more than they do and want the loose ball more than they do.
You know the Celtics are going to play hard. You have to play harder.
The Nets didn’t. They didn’t do a lot of things and wound up suffering their worst loss of the season, a 118-86 creaming in Beantown that showed the difference between a champion and a playoff hopeful.
If nothing else, this game should show the Nets what it takes to be great and what it takes to beat a great team. It should have sunk in already and reverberate in their minds, especially right now when they play four more games against some of the NBA’s top teams.
“Back to the drawing board,” Devin Harris said.
“It’s back to the drawing board and we have to find our way back tomorrow,” Vince Carter said.
There’s nothing like clichés to give you the impression that the Nets really got the magnitude of this loss.
No doubt they were upset, but they’re never going to be as upset as a fan, coach or executive.
For the most part, players forget things by the time they get home. But coach Lawrence Frank, Carter and Harris should make sure the Nets don’t forget this one too quickly. They have to learn from it. That’s not a cliché. That’s reality.
The Nets face Portland tonight. They host Boston on Saturday. They’re at New Orleans and San Antonio to open a four-game trip that runs through Memphis and Oklahoma City.
The last two are winnable, of course. But the Nets could drop all of these games if what happened here didn’t register and doesn’t linger.
The Nets have accomplished nothing to this point. They’re just one of the East teams, hanging around at the bottom of the playoff race, that likely will be easy prey for the Cavaliers, Celtics or Magic — unless they watch what Boston did to them and use that going forward.
Check out these numbers:
Fastbreak points: Boston 19, New Jersey 5
Rebounds: Boston 45, New Jersey 32
Field-goal percentage: Boston 56.4, New Jersey 38.8
Assists: Boston 28, Nets 14
Turnovers: Nets 20, Boston 17.
The one category the Nets win is the one they don’t want.
“That’s what disappointing,” Frank said. “It just shows you just how hard they work. When talent works hard like that and you can’t stay at the level, you get embarrassed. They’re a talented team that outworked us and as a result we got embarrassed.”
The Nets can’t forget what happened to them or it could happen again and again and again.
Carter left the game in the first period after Brian Scalabrine rolled on his leg, but he returned. Little good it did him or the Nets. Carter was 1-for-10 with four points.
He said it was right above his ankle that was bothering him and it did affect his “lift off,” but Carter expects to play against the Blazers on Thursday night when the Nets shoot for their fifth straight home win.
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.).