The Boston Celtics rang in a new year on Sunday with a 108-105 victory over the Brooklyn Nets that recalled glorious years gone by.
The hard-fought victory over a determined Nets team saw the Celtics improve to 30-10 – the earliest date since the 1964-65 season that Boston have piled up 30 victories.
It was the third-earliest arrival at 30 victories in Celtics history. The 1959-60 team got there on December 28, the 1964-65 squad on December 30.
Both of those teams went on to win the NBA title.
The Eastern Conference-leading Celtics had to work for win number 30.
Brooklyn, trailing by 14 points with 5:59 remaining, trimmed the deficit to three and had the ball after a timeout with 14.5 seconds remaining.
But Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie let loose a long-range effort off the inbounds pass that missed by a mile.
“I think it was open, I think he could’ve gotten closer,” Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson said. “I think if he curled it tighter, that was the play for him to come off that screen. … I think they botched a switch or whatever and he came off. Even so, it was longer than we wanted but it was an open catch and shoot.”
Boston guard Kyrie Irving chased down the rebound and called timeout.
He was fouled on the inbounds play and sealed Boston’s seventh straight win over the Nets with two free throws as chants of “M-V-P” rained on him.
Irving posted his eleventh straight 20-point game, scoring 28 and pulling down eight rebounds.
The Celtics appeared to be in control of the contest after two second-half spurts, but Brooklyn wouldn’t go away.
The Nets twice got as close as five in the last two minutes. Boston made no shots from the floor over the final 4:27, but made seven of 10 free throws.
“You’ve got to give credit to just how talented that team is. They play extremely hard for all 48 minutes,” Irving said. “We had to take the challenge on every single possession.
“A few great takeaways from this game,” he added. “Especially down the stretch — we’ve just got to close out better.”
Next up for the Celtics is a marquee matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday.
The Cavs traded Irving to the Celtics prior to the season in a deal that brought point guard Isaiah Thomas to Cleveland.
Thomas has been sidelined all season with a hip injury incurred playing for Boston last season, and it’s not clear if he’ll take the floor against his old team.
But Celtics coach Brad Stevens said the Cavs team led by four-time NBA Most Valuable Player LeBron James will be a formidable test.
“Really, really tough task, obviously,” Stevens said. “They’ve had everybody’s number in the East for a couple of years now, and we’re amongst that list. So we’ll see.”
© Agence France-Presse