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Celtics pull away in 4th period and defeat Nets

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum controls the ball in front of Brooklyn Nets' Ben Simmons during a game Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023 (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum controls the ball in front of Brooklyn Nets’ Ben Simmons during a game Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023 (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

NEW YORK (AP) — On one side there was no Kevin Durant. Of the other, the absent one was Jaylen Brown.

As the fourth quarter rolled around, Kyrie Irving seemed intent on taking on the offensive power the Nets needed on his own.

The Celtics relied instead on the balance and defense that has made them the best team in the NBA.

Jayson Tatum had 20 points and 11 rebounds as Boston pulled away in the fourth quarter and beat Brooklyn 109-98 on Thursday, playing its first game since losing Kevin Durant to a knee injury.

Marcus Smart added 16 points and 10 assists for the Celtics, who were without Jaylen Brown due to injury. Malcolm Brogdon also scored 16 points, teaming up with fellow backup point guard Payton Pritchard to lead the decisive attack early in the fourth quarter.

Thus, Boston secured its fifth victory in a row.

Smart said the two reservists turned the tide of the game.

“They got us into rhythm and gave us back the momentum,” he said.

Brown suffered a tight right adductor problem one night after scoring a season-high 41 points in a win over New Orleans.

Interim coach Joe Mazzulla said Brown could miss at least a week of activity.

But there are still plenty of scorers and defenders on the team with the best record in the NBA. Derrick White, who took Brown’s place, scored 15 points.

Kyrie Irving scored 24 points for the Nets, who battled Boston until they were outscored 12-2 early in the fourth quarter. TJ Warren added 20 points and Joe Harris, Durant’s replacement, had 18.

“The first three quarters I felt like we were hitting shots with rhythm,” Irving said. “In the fourth I just wanted to be aggressive.”

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