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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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