The Nets entered the action in Beantown on a four-game winning streak and winners of 10 of their last 14 overall. The Celtics had just suffered their eighth loss in 10 contests after a 20-point loss at home over Golden State on Wednesday night. Brooklyn had handled Boston in each of its first two meetings this year, and with the way the two squads had been playing of late, there was little reason to suspect anything to the contrary in the third faceoff.
Even though the Nets have salvaged their season and then some after a cringe-worthy beginning to the year, Friday night's game in Boston was perceived as one they needed to have. After all, good teams are the ones that take care of business against weaker opponents.
Must win. No excuses.— NetsDaily.com (@NetsDaily) March 8, 2014
Deja vu all over again: #Nets are 15-1 in their last 16 against teams currently below .500— Mike Mazzeo (@MazzESPN) March 7, 2014
Nets since the new year: 20-8; Celtics record? 7-23.— Stefan Bondy (@NYDNInterNets) March 6, 2014
However, there would be one familiar face not with the Nets as they took on their division rivals.
However, Paul Pierce was active Friday for Jason Kidd's crew and was received well by the hometown crowd.
Paul Pierce is announced last here in Boston -- and just like on Jan. 26, he's announced like a home player. Big cheers.— Andy Vasquez (@andy_vasquez) March 8, 2014
Out of the gate, the Nets were sluggish, as the Celts outscored them 26-20 in the first quarter. In fact, Brooklyn, which came into the game tied for 14th in the league in three-point percentage at 35.9 per cent, couldn't seem to hit anything.
On the other side, Rajon Rondo, birthday party-gate and all, was putting on a show. It was apparent very early on that the Celtics' best player was at his best on Friday.
Rondo has hit all 3 of his 3-point attempts in the first quarter. His career-high for 3-pointers in a game is 4, by the way.— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) March 8, 2014
Rondo w/ 13 points in the 1Q on 5-6 shooting, including 3-3 from deep. Has 5 rbs, 2 asts. He's gunning for a triple-double.— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) March 8, 2014
By halftime, little had changed for either team. The Nets' performance from deep had actually worsened, to the tune of 0-for-17 (!!!!). Rondo kept the pedal to the metal for Brad Stevens, as the Celts seemed intent on preventing the first regular-season four-game winning streak for the Nets ever over Boston.
The Celtics head into halftime leading the Nets 53-41. Rajon Rondo has game-highs of 16 points and 5 rebs. Nets are 0-for-17 from downtown.— Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 8, 2014
Celtics 53, Nets 41. Halftime. The Nets shot 0-for-17 from 3-point range in the first half. They should be down more than 12.— Andy Vasquez (@andy_vasquez) March 8, 2014
The Nets went 0-17 from 3 in the 1st half. Their 17 1st-half misses without a make are most by any team in a game the past 15 seasons.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 8, 2014
You know it's a problem when Rajon Rondo has three more 3-pointers than your entire team.— Stefan Bondy (@NYDNInterNets) March 8, 2014
In the second half, Brooklyn made it interesting with a run after being down as much as 18 at one point. The Nets even hit a three!
What was once a 64-46 #Celtics lead is down to 3 with with a FT coming to Joe Johnson. Make it 2. 70-68— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) March 8, 2014
Deron Williams made a trey. The Nets are now 1-18 from long range.— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) March 8, 2014
However, that was ultimately as close as Brooklyn would get. Boston ended the third quarter on a run and then coasted in the fourth as the Nets went cold yet again.
Nets lose 91-84, and finish a ridiculous 4-for-30 from 3-point range.— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) March 8, 2014
From Dick Lipe: The Nets' 4-for-30 night from 3 was the worst by a team with at least 30 3-point attempts in at least 29 years.— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) March 8, 2014
Rondo's 20 pts, 9 asts & 7 rebs power the Celtics to a 91-84 win over the Nets. Bass had 15 & Olynyk chipped in 13 pts, 7 rebs off the bench— Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 8, 2014
In the winning effort, Brad Stevens commended Rondo for one of his strongest performance of his abridged season. He also lauded the bench for excelling in spots when Brooklyn could have quickly gotten back into the game. For Jason Kidd and the Nets, sometimes the shots just don't fall your way.
Stevens on bench play when Rondo came out of game: "They not only sustained, they pushed the lead out. Their energy on loose balls helped."— Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 8, 2014
Stevens: "We talked about the idea of pride, not wanting to play (poorly) at home. We were louder, more engaged and it was obvious..."— Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 8, 2014
Kidd: It happens. That's basketball. Had open looks that just didn't go down. #Nets— Mike Mazzeo (@MazzESPN) March 8, 2014
Williams said Nets should've been more aggressive, "They didn’t have any shot blockers and we should have attacked them a little bit more."— Andy Vasquez (@andy_vasquez) March 8, 2014
C's have 20 games left. Humphries: “I was just talking to Rondo a few minutes ago, [and he said,] ‘Let’s just have fun.'"— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) March 8, 2014
Nets were pretty frustrated after this one because they let it slip. More like Golden State, when they also missed lots of 3s, than Portland— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) March 8, 2014
After the game, Paul Pierce made a slight stir with his response when asked if he would ever consider playing for his first and original team ever again.
Paul Pierce said he'd consider playing for Celtics again. "Why not? Play for them, work for them ... who knows what the future can bring."— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) March 8, 2014
Anyone who is getting worked up about Paul Pierce saying he wouldn't mind someday being part of the Celtic franchise again needs to relax.— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) March 8, 2014
The guy played here for 15 years. Do you really think he has no more feelings for the place? Give me a break.— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) March 8, 2014
For Brooklyn, this was no doubt a step back on the road of second-half resurgence. Moving to two games over the .500 mark would have been big for this team. It's nearly impossible to win when you go 4-for-30 from deep, so it's almost impressive this was a single-digit defeat.
However, 30-30 at this point is pretty incredible for where this team was after the season's first two months, when a roster blow-up and a coaching firing didn't seem that far off. Right now, Brooklyn is playing as if it is the third-best team in the East.
The Celtics knew this season was going to be a long one when Rajon Rondo went down late last year with an ACL tear and KG and Pierce were shipped to Brooklyn. However, this win can be a building block for a late-season push under Stevens.
The playoffs are almost entirely out of the question at 21-41, but with the current condition of the Eastern Conference, you would be silly to think that Boston couldn't alter the postseason picture in the season's home stretch.