The New Jersey Nets defeated the Boston Celtics 88-79 on Monday in front of their second-straight sellout at the Prudential Center for their most impressive victory of the season. The Nets were able to get clutch baskets from Brook Lopez, who put the Nets up 4, 83-79 with 1:14 left in the fourth quarter, and Deron Williams, who put the game away with a three-pointer with 35.6 seconds left to give the Nets a 86-79 lead.
The Celtics got off to a fast start, taking their largest lead of the game, 23-14, at the end of the first quarter on a turnaround jump shot by Jeff Green. The Nets would hold the Celtics to 15 second-quarter points to close the lead to 38-36. The Nets exploded for 31 third-quarter points, and took their biggest lead of the game, 74-62, on a three pointer from Travis Outlaw with 9:33 left in the fourth quarter. The veteran Celtics would close the 12-point lead to 2, 81-79, on a jump shot by Glen Davis, but Lopez and Williams closed it out from there.
“Mental and physical toughness” was Nets head coach Avery Johnson’s answer to the question I asked him about the team’s ability to win games they would have lost a month ago. He added “”For us, to beat a team of this magnitude that’s a big hurdle for us.”
Boston head coach Doc Rivers wasn’t pleased with his team’s effort. “I was just disappointed in our execution and our focus too. We’re just not playing well right now. Give the Nets credit, they hit some big shots and they were the aggressor in the second half.”
Celtics all star power forwar d Kevin Garnett agreed with his coach, adding “they have been playing well lately, with a lot more energy. D-Will has come over there and given them a winning mentality. It seems to be working for them. Kris has been playing real well.” “Give them credit. They found a way to win” Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo said.
“We’re playing with a lot of confidence right now. It’s the team chemistry. We’re getting more comfortable with each other” Nets center Brook Lopez said after the game.
“I love to have the ball at the end of game situations and create” said Nets point guard Deron Williams. “I think we’re playing good right now. We’re gelling pretty well for having such a short time together and having fun. These games are important right now not only because we have a chance to make the playoffs but just for the future and going forward next year.”
Lopez led the Nets with 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Kris Humphries had his seventh straight double-double, with 16 points and 15 rebounds, while Deron Williams, returning after missing the last two games to witness the birth of his fourth child, narrowly missed a double-double with 16 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals. Anthony Morrow finished with 15 points, and Travis Outlaw came off the bench to score 12 points and grab 6 rebounds.
Ray Allen led the Celtics with 19 points, 4 assists, and 3 rebounds, and Kevin Garnett scored 18 points and grabbed 8 rebounds. Glen Davis came off the bench to score 16 points and grab 14 rebounds. Both Paul Pierce and Rando struggled shooting the ball, combining for 3-20 from the field and 9 points.
The Nets had their third sellout of the season and have won five straight games for the first time since January 5, 2008. The Nets also stopped a nine-game home losing streak to the Celtics, winning for the first time since April 16, 2006.
Former Nets forward Troy Murphy, now with the Boston Celtics, did not score and grabbed five rebounds in 10 minutes. When I asked him what inspired him to sign with the Celtics, he said “style of play. They don’t care who shoots, they don’t care who scores.”
Rando had a chance to meet United States President Barack Obama recently, which he said was a “cool experience. He’s a funny guy. He’s a Bulls fan. He has a way with people. He’s got great charisma.”