Only later could Brooklyn coach Lionel Hollins crack a smile.
“I was holding my breath,” he said.
And with good reason.
The Nets escaped with a 109-107 victory over the Boston Celtics on Friday in a game that ended with Jared Sullinger’s shot at the buzzer rimming out. The miss came after Jarrett Jack nailed a tiebreaking jumper in the lane with 28 seconds to play and finished with 27 points.
Boston had sliced it to 108-107 on Avery Bradley’s 3-pointer with 1.7 seconds left. Brooklyn’s Joe Johnson then went the line and sank the second of two free throws with 1.5 to go.
Without a timeout, Boston’s Gerald Wallace, who had just entered the game for the first time, made a terrific pass to Sullinger from one baseline to nearly the other. Sullinger caught it and took a fadaway over Mason Plumlee.
“That was as good of a shot as you can get at that time,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said.
Sullinger felt it was easy enough to make.
“Gerald threw a heck of pass and I’ve just got to make it,” he said. “That’s the best shot you can get — 1.5 seconds on the clock and that close to the rim.”
Even Plumlee was surprised how good of a chance the Celtics had.
“To get a quality shot off like that is good execution,” he said. “I thought that was a great play.”
Alan Anderson scored 15 points, Plumlee 14 with 12 rebounds and Mirza Teletovic had 11 points for the Nets, who won their third straight for the first time this season and improved to 12-2 against sub-.500 teams.
Jeff Green had 22 points and Sullinger 19 with eight rebounds for Boston, which lost its third in a row.
The Nets trailed by 11 early in the final quarter before scoring 15 of the next 19 points over a 4:08 stretch to tie it at 99 on Jack’s jumper from the left wing with just over 4 minutes left.
Sullinger then nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key to move the Celtics ahead 104-101 with 2 minutes left, but Anderson hit a 3 from the left wing to tie it 23-seconds later.
Jack dribbled into the key and hit his go-ahead shot from just inside the foul line and hit two free throws.
Boston entered the final quarter with a seven-point lead and increased it to 95-84 on Brandon Bass’ reverse layup with just under 9 minutes to play.
The Celtics used a 13-2 run over a 2 1-2 minute span midway into the third quarter to turn a one-point lead to 76-64. Bradley had a 3-pointer from the left corner and a fast-break dunk. The highlight play was when Marcus Smart went to the floor for a steal against Jack. While sitting on the floor, Smart made an over-the-shoulder pass to Green for a breakaway jam.
Deron Williams’ fallaway at the buzzer closed Boston’s lead to 86-79 after three.
Nets: Williams returned to action after missing the last two games with a strained right calf. Hollins said about 2 hours before the game that he’d have to wait until after warmups to see Williams was ready to play. He didn’t start, but came in during the second quarter and finished with eight points in 22 minutes.
Celtics: Rookie G Smart made his second career start. Stevens said he “wanted to be able to match up defensively a little bit differently.” … Stevens said rookie F James Young was healthy enough to return to action after a right shoulder injury, but he was inactive because the Celtics had too many active players.
THE LAST TIME?
Brooklyn F Kevin Garnett, a member of Boston’s 2008 championship team, was given a loud ovation during pregame introductions. The crowd cheered after each of his three baskets. He paused and reflected on what could have been his last game at TD Garden. “At this stage it’s always somewhere lurking in the back, whether I admit it or not being truthful with you,” he said. “At this stage, things are not taken for granted, but more appreciated. It crossed. I wouldn’t lie about that.”
Garnett patted Smart after the highlight play in the third quarter as the two were getting up from the floor.
“I admire the young guy’s work ethic and how hard he plays,” Garnett said. “It was a good hustle play. It was just a little tap on the back to say, `Good play.”‘
Nets: Host Indiana on Saturday.
Celtics: At Washington on Saturday.