The New Jersey Nets gave the Boston Celtics, down two point guards by the end of the night, all they could handle before falling short in an 89-83 Celtics win.
Boston point guard Rajon Rondo was in street clothes and back up Delonte West broke his wrist in the second quarter, providing New Jersey with an opportunity to beat a very good team.
On the strength of a 14-2 first half run, the Nets held a 46-38 lead going into halftime--- an advantage they would have until late in the third quarter, when the Celtics fought back to tie the game.
Boston took a 67-65 lead early in the fourth quarter and never again trailed as, even shorthanded, they just had too much talent on the floor for New Jersey to handle.
The Nets did not help themselves by turning the ball over 18 times; half of them coming in the third quarter (but that can be expected against Boston.)
The Celtics are one of the better, if not the best, defensive teams around and force an average of about 16 turnovers a game, seventh best in the NBA.
They clearly had much more intensity and defensive effort in the second half, holding New Jersey to 38 percent shooting and just 37 total points in the final 24 minutes.
Devin Harris was the leading scorer for the Nets with 20. Anthony Morrow and Brook Lopez were next with 18 and 16, respectively.
Kris Humphries had a good rebounding game with 11 and Jordan Farmar dished out seven assists coming off the bench.
For the game, New Jersey out-rebounded Boston 42-33--- respectable against one the league's elite teams.
Shaquille O'Neal scored 25 and grabbed 11 boards to lead the Celtics in both categories, while Paul Pierce and Ray Allen combined for 33.
New Jersey just does not have enough firepower to compete with this team when they commit so many turnovers.
All in all, the Nets can head back home with their heads held high since, even though Boston was without possibly its best player, the Nets took the defending Eastern Conference champs down to the wire.
They may not have come out on top, but if they can play with this type of intensity every night, they should win more often than they lose.
Consistent efforts will be the key going forward.
New Jersey will now get to enjoy Thanksgiving with two days off before heading to Philadelphia to take on the 76ers Saturday night.