Boston Celtics vs. Brooklyn Nets: Postgame Grades and Analysis
So that's what happens when Rajon Rondo finishes a game against the Brooklyn Nets.
Rondo and Paul Pierce led a scrappy charge for the Celtics as they snapped a five game road losing streak, blowing out the Nets on their own turf 93-76.
Though Brooklyn appeared to be in control after a handful of possessions, it was all Boston from the first quarter on. The Celtics' lead ballooned to as much as 19, a deficit that proved too much for the Nets to overcome.
Frustrations mounted for both teams as Gerald Wallace and Kevin Garnett got tangled up early in the fourth quarter. Compared to what happened less than a month ago, though, this one looked like the teams were merely exchanging Christmas gifts.
Which players shaped the outcome of this game—mini-scuffle and all—the most?
Let's find out.
Starting Point Guards
Deron Williams, PG, BKN: C-
Deron Williams continues to struggle. A lot.
He shot an unimpressive 42.9 percent from the field on his way to scoring just 10 points.
Williams did dish out six assists to counteract his poor shooting, but he also coughed up the ball four times.
For the Nets to get their act together, they're going to need the dominant point guard they thought they re-signed over the summer. Williams simply isn't attacking the basket like he used to and the rotation on his shots is lacking.
Perhaps we can chalk this one up to the rigors of defending Rajon Rondo, but at $100 million, that's not exactly an excuse.
Rajon Rondo, PG, BOS: A
Speaking of Rondo, he played really well. Like the complete opposite of Williams well.
Rondo torched the Nets for 19 points, six rebounds, five assists and and three steals. Boston was an impressive plus-nine with him on the floor and he added to his big day with a couple of three-pointers.
Credit Rondo with frustrating Williams to the point of ineffectiveness for much of the game. He did a great job fighting over screens, and his weak side help defense was particularly exquisite.
I've been saying it all season: For the Celtics to win consistently, Rondo needs to score in excess.
Here, he scored in excess and Boston emerged victorious.
Coincidence? I think not.
Starting Shooting Guards
Keith Bogans, SG, BKN: C
Keith Bogans started this game, I swear. He just didn't do much.
He received just 15 minutes of burn, hitting his one and only shot. I'll give him credit for that one make, but his subpar defense was troubling.
Brooklyn posted a minus-12 with him on the floor, albeit in limited minutes.
Not much to say here except Bogans receives a collective thumbs down.
Jason Terry, SG, BOS: B
I liked what I saw from Jason Terry.
Sure, he scored just 11 points with four assists, but the Celtics posted a plus-10 with him on the floor.
His defense was also superb, by his standards, anyway. It wasn't just that he grabbed a steal and helped force some turnovers, but rather the way he locked in when defending on the ball. He appeared focused and was rarely beaten off the dribble as a result.
Obviously, you would like to see Terry score more if you're the Celtics, but bear in mind that he converted on 57.1 percent of his shots.
What we're bearing witness to is a restrained JET. He's picking his spots and is a bit more calculated in everything he does.
And you know what? It's working.
Starting Small Forwards
Joe Johnson, SF, BKN: C-
I continue to worry about Joe Johnson.
The Nets brought him to Brooklyn to score and subsequently form one of the most formidable backcourts in the entire league. Instead, he has struggled arguably more than Deron Williams.
Johnson shot just 4-of-14 from the field en route to scoring an unimpressive 12 points. He jacked up far too many three-pointers (eight) and the Nets' offense seemed much more stagnant when he was on the floor.
Though there wasn't much to like from Johnson, I was surprised by some of his defensive sets—in a good way. On more than a few occasions, he did a great job of moving his feet and contesting shots.
That said, spotty defense isn't anything to rave about, so the complements stop here.
Paul Pierce, SF, BOS: B
Paul Pierce dropped just eight points on a paltry 30 percent shooting from the floor , and yet I'm still impressed.
Why? Because he dished out 10 assists and played some solid on-ball defense as well.
I understand that Pierce's primary job is to score, but the way he attacked the paint and drew in defenses was astonishing.
We've always known Pierce to be a multi-faceted player—someone who could impact the game even if his shot wasn't falling.
That notion held true more than ever in this one.
Starting Power Forwards
Gerald Wallace, PF, BKN: A-
If there was a bright spot for the Nets, it was Gerald Wallace.
Don't pay attention to the minus-16 his team posted with him on the floor, because he worked his butt off on both ends of the floor.
Wallace scored a respectable 15 points on 57.1 percent shooting to go along with his three steals.
By the end of the game, or rather, the last half of the fourth quarter, Wallace was the only one left fighting. He kept pushing, defending and attacking the rim.
Personally, I'd like to see this effort more consistently from Wallace. He tends to get lost in the shuffle behind Joe Johnson and Deron Williams, yet he attempted more free-throws than the two combined in this contest.
Brooklyn got dismantled in this game, but it had little, if anything, to do with Wallace.
Kevin Garnett, PF, BOS: A-
Kevin Garnett didn't score a load of points, but he too gave it one-hundred percent on offense and defense.
Boston was posted a plus-15 with KG on the floor and he was easily their greatest asset on the defensive end. He grabbed 10 rebounds, two steals and blocked two shots, leading the Celtics to perhaps their most dominant defensive performance of the season.
Brook Lopez, Joe Johnson and Deron Williams were all liable to light it up, but they didn't, and Garnett is the biggest reason why.
Clearly, for Boston to contend for a title, Garnett is going to have to score more than eight points, but he did what was needed of him here.
Which turned out to be plenty.
Brook Lopez, C, BKN: B
Brook Lopez put forth one of the best offensive performance for any Brooklyn player here, which says something—and that something is not good.
The big man scored 15 points, but he attempted just 12 shots in 37 minutes of action. Boston's interior defense was just too much for him here.
When Lopez was actually able to get his hands on the ball, he was not afforded high-percentage shots. He did make it to the line nine times, but he connected on just five of those attempts.
That said, his eight rebounds and two blocks were slightly encouraging. Those are marks the Nets need him to hit every night.
But until his stronger defensive performances can coincide with consistent offense, expect more topsy-turvy games like this from Mr. Lopez.
Jason Collins, C, BOS: C+
Boston's Jason Collins played just 13 minutes, and they were anything but impressive.
He got off five shots, but hit on just two of them en route to scoring four points. His instant rebounding was of some value, and there's no diminishing the presence he provides for the size-challenged Celtics.
Still, in a game where Brooklyn opted to go small, his talents weren't necessary.
Andray Blatche, PF, BKN: C+
Now, before you take to the comments section to discredit my logic, this is predicated on more than Andray Blatche's lackluster point-totaling performance.
Yes, he scored just six points on 33 percent shooting, but he grabbed seven rebounds—six of which were offensive boards. He could have went 0-for-9 from the field and that stat would still be impressive.
Blatche played some solid defense for stretches as well. He blocked two shots, grabbed one steal and held his own in the post on most possessions.
That said, the Nets need more from him on offense, and considering his day can be characterized by a botched lay-up, there's no use denying that this was far from a stellar performance.
Jeff Green, PF, BOS: A-
This could serve as a breakout game for Jeff Green.
How many times have you thought that this season?
Green continued to toil with our emotions as he put forth one of his best efforts of the season. He dropped 15 points on 62.5 percent shooting from the field to go along with three rebounds, two assists and one steal.
While Green was nearly perfect in this one, though, I would have liked to have seen a bit more from him defensively. He played well, but there were some shots he didn't commit to contesting and his off-ball awareness could have been better as well.
I'm not about to diminish his overall showing, though. Sometimes, the box score can lie, but it's heaving a healthy dose of truth our way when it shows the Celtics were plus-13 with him on the floor.
Other Bench Players
Brooklyn Nets: D
The Nets needed more from their starters, but they needed even more from their bench.
As previously mentioned, Andray Blatche was their crowning performer off the pine, and even his execution wasn't anything to write home about.
Both Blatche and Jerry Stackhouse just couldn't find their offense, going 6-of-17 from the field combined. Reggie Evans provided some instant rebounding off the bench, but his defense was atrocious.
Outside of that, C.J. Watson and Marshon Brooks were non-factors once again.
Looking at the collective struggles the Nets incurred in this one, it's no wonder they got blown out.
Boston Celtics: B+
Holy Jared Sullinger.
The rookie heckled the Nets on defense to no end, grabbing seven rebounds, one steal and blocking one shot as well. He also finished with a bench-high 16 points.
His performance, coupled with Jeff Green's encouraging accolades was enough to offset Brandon Bass' horrific performance. Even Courtney Lee's continued struggles weren't enough to drag Boston's reserves down.
Not when it became apparent that Sullinger may have finally arrived.