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Open House party

Backup was on target in fourth

By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / February 6, 2010

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At the top of the list of Celtics opponents’ defensive axioms is to never leave Ray Allen open. The same goes for Eddie House. But, of course, that is something easier said by coaches than done by players.

The Nets were applying that strategy against House in the second half of the Celtics’ 96-87 victory last night at TD Garden. Nets guard Devin Harris did not have to be a genius to figure out the Celtics were going to House out of a timeout midway through the final quarter as he stole Rajon Rondo’s pass. But Harris’s momentum was taking him out of bounds near the New Jersey bench. Trying to maintain possession, Harris flipped the ball back into play - the attempted save going directly to Rasheed Wallace, who sent it back to House for a wide-open 20-footer.

“I mean, that’s part of it,’’ Wallace said. “I was saying to [Glen Davis] when we were on the bench, when you’re on a losing club everything you do, every little mistake, gets magnified. And I guarantee that’s one of the things Devin Harris is probably beating himself up about. He saved the ball, he made a good hustle play, but he ended up throwing it to the wrong person.’’

House had already made his scoring contribution, but he wasn’t finished. On the next sequence, House made a steal and had his layup blocked, but Allen followed for an 86-77 lead with 5:51 remaining.

House would continue his hot streak two minutes later, Rondo penetrating and House taking Wallace’s touch pass. This trey appeared to give the Celtics a 10-point lead, but the Nets called a timeout and, on a replay, House’s field goal was judged to have been taken after the 24-second shot clock expired.

“I thought I got it off on the replay they were looking at,’’ House said. “But it’s a judgment call, so . . . ’’

That gave Courtney Lee a chance to complete a 6-point turnaround, his 3-pointer cutting the Net deficit to 88-84 with 3:33 left. House would not get another chance for a shot, but he was there to collect Wallace’s tipped rebound following a Harris miss as New Jersey squandered a chance to cut the deficit to 2. The Boston starters returned to action after that.

With Celtics coach Doc Rivers limiting Allen’s minutes, the Celtics relied on House to provide a perimeter threat. That did not happen in the first half, as House missed all four of his shots and went scoreless. It did in the final quarter, as House scored 10 points.

“First half, I think I was kind of rushing shots,’’ House said. “I took some quick ones, I just tried to let the game come to me in the second half - when I get my shot, made sure it was in rhythm, wasn’t rushed, took my time with it, and knocked it down.

“It’s like the shots I’ve been getting all season. I’m just sticking with it - never lose confidence and keep shooting the basketball. As long as we win, all I’m trying to do is help the team win. So, if you get looks in the fourth, or you get them in the first, I try to make all my shots. When you get shots in the fourth you definitely want to make them.’’

But, without an improved second-half defensive performance (the Nets shot 28.9 percent after halftime), House might not have been in the lineup.

“It was just one of those games we weren’t getting stops defensively,’’ House said. “We weren’t talking, weren’t communicating, weren’t doing our jobs, individually and collectively. Once we came in in the second half [and] saw they were shooting 63 percent, we came in [and made a] conscious effort to make it harder for them - everybody taking care of their man and making sure we rebounded.’’

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