Celtics end three-game losing streak, beat struggling Nets 89-81

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NEW YORK — There was no yelling from Brad Stevens during the first timeout. Nobody got benched.

It looked bad for the Boston Celtics on the scoreboard, but their coach liked what he was seeing on the court.

"Even when we were down 10-2, I felt good about the way we were playing," Stevens said, adding that his message to his players was "we're playing a lot better than the score."

Eventually, they played a lot better than the Nets.

Avery Bradley scored 21 points, and the Celtics snapped a three-game losing streak with an 89-81 victory over Brooklyn on Wednesday night.

Tyler Zeller added 18 points for the Celtics, who won for just the second time in nine games by outplaying and outworking the Nets over the final three quarters. They trailed by 11 in the first half but gradually pulled away after halftime despite shooting under 40 percent for the game.

"We knew what we had to do to come into the game tonight and get a win," reserve Jae Crowder said. "We just came out with a little more effort than they did and it showed late."

Nets center Mason Plumlee agreed that the Nets were outhustled.

"No question," he said. "It hurts to say that, but that's what happened."

The Celtics had just seven turnovers, leading to four points for the Nets. Brooklyn turned it over 18 times, which Boston turned into 16 points.

Joe Johnson scored 17 points for the Nets, who dropped their third in a row and fell to 16-19. Plumlee had 16 points and 12 rebounds but shot just 6 for 11 at the free-throw line.

"This is a game I think we definitely should've got," Johnson said.

Brooklyn point guard Deron Williams came on late in the first quarter after missing a game with a sore left side, but made it just 4 minutes before having to take himself out and didn't return.

Brooklyn took an early 10-point lead and was ahead 25-19 after one quarter, but managed just 14 points on 5-of-18 shooting in the second. The Celtics, who trailed by 11 early in the period, scored the final eight points of the half to grab a 40-39 edge.

The Celtics pushed it to 69-62 after three and opened a series of double-digit leads in the fourth quarter. Their lead peaked at 82-68 on a dunk by Crowder, who was all alone under the basket when the Nets appeared to be looking the other way.

TIP-INS

Celtics: The Celtics improved to 3-0 on the road against Atlantic Division opponents, having won twice at Philadelphia. ... With all 15 players on the roster basically healthy, Stevens wrestled with who to make inactive before settling on veteran Jameer Nelson and rookie James Young. Young scored 13 points in 17 1/2 minutes off the bench Monday in a loss to Charlotte in his first extended playing time of the season, making it more difficult for Stevens.

Nets: Plumlee had his seventh double-double, the most by a Nets player since Williams had 21 during the 2012-13 season. ... With Williams barely able to play, the Nets gave Darius Morris 4 minutes to rest starter Jarrett Jack. Morris had two points and an assist.

PLAYING HARD PAYS OFF

The Celtics know they can't rely on talent alone the way previous Boston teams could. But they're well aware effort can overcome that.

"Everyone knows that. You learn that when you first start playing basketball. You play hard and the basketball gods will bless you," Bradley said.

'LAZY' LOPEZ

On one botched Nets possession, center Brook Lopez moved slowly after a ball thrown to the backcourt while Crowder kept hustling and dived after it. Lopez said he didn't know Crowder was behind him, and coach Lionel Hollins was asked if he was frustrated that Lopez stopped hustling.

"Of course," Hollins said. "Just tell him that he was being lazy. That's all it is."

UP NEXT

Celtics: Visit Indiana on Friday.

Nets: Host Philadelphia on Friday.

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