BOSTON — Even without Kyrie Irving, the Brooklyn Nets are one of the top contenders in the NBA thanks to Kevin Durant, James Harden and a talented supporting cast of veterans.

The Celtics know they have to be at their best to match that firepower, but Boston’s elder statesman Al Horford thought his team put the Nets on too high of a pedestal in Wednesday’s playoff rematch, a 123-104 win by Brooklyn.

“They came out the more aggressive team, we probably gave them too much respect,” Horford said. “They are what they are — a good team. But at the end of the day, this is a learning experience for our group, and I hope it helps us the next time.”

Nets Celtics Basketball

Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter, right, blocks Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden (13) during the first half of an NBA game Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021, in Boston. AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Jaylen Brown concurred with his teammate when asked about the assessment, noting that it was a combination of factors that led to the ugly loss.

“Obviously, this wasn’t our best game, we didn’t come out and play with that tenacity that we’ve seen in recent games, for whatever reason, but we have to find it back on this road trip,” Brown said. “I think that defense is what we want to set the tone on. Some of those tough shots discouraged us, and things like that.

“We just have to have the mindset to come out and play basketball regardless of what happens on both sides of the ball. I think we let some makes and misses dictate how we were going to play, and it showed. We have to be more consistent on both sides and continue to raise our energy level. Tonight was a tough night for us, like I said, but I think we’ll bounce back.”

The Celtics kick off a two-game road trip on Friday in San Antonio, the beginning of heavy road stretch with seven of the team’s next eight games away from TD Garden. While a 19-point loss against a top contender might cause some lingering doubts about the team’s abilities, Brown is confident that the 8-3 run prior to the defeat is more reflective of what this group is.

“We have been playing good basketball, and we’ve got to continue to play good basketball,” Brown said. “We can’t let this loss dictate the rest of the next four, five, six, seven games. We have to bounce back. That’s what good teams do. So we have to come back, get ready to play in San Antonio, communicate a little more, set the tone defensively and be ready to click on all cylinders.”

BROWN REACTS TO ARBERY VERDICT

Jaylen Brown spoke passionately Monday about the pair of high-profile trials that the nation has been watching closely in recent weeks.

On Wednesday, a verdict was reached in one of those trials, the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in Brown’s hometown of Atlanta. A Georgia jury found three men guilty in the murder of Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was killed as he jogged through a residential neighborhood last year. The three white men also face federal hate crime charges in a trial which will begin next year.

Brown reflected on the case and verdict after Wednesday’s game against the Nets.

“I’m not sure what it does,” Brown said of the verdict. “Obviously, to see that go in the direction that it went is what people wanted to see. But Ahmaud Arbery still lost his life and his family is not gonna ever see him again. So, yeah, the decision was made, but it should’ve been obvious. It shouldn’t even have been a discrepancy, I feel. That’s the part in society that we’re not at yet. We say that’s justice, but is it? That’s all I really got to say.”

Brown has been a leader in the NBA on a number of social issues in recent seasons, speaking out against police brutality, social injustice and the systemic racism that has led to tragedies like the Arbery murder.

“The foundation of this country was built on systemic inequality and racism, et cetera,” Brown said on Monday. “And until we get to the root of things we’re going to keep having these same instances. And we’re going to keep having these same reactions.”


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