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Nets 104, Celtics 96

Posted by Julian Benbow, Globe Staff  February 27, 2010 10:48 AM

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The question went from being “What if the Nets – those Nets –beat the Celtics” to “what if the Nets – those Nets – beat the Celtics by 20.

The possibility was there Brook Lopez, Coutney Lee and Devin Harris were giving the Celtics fits. The Nets were getting to the line at will and with a 94-76 lead with five and a half minutes left, it looked like the Nets had a chance to hand the Celtics their second blowout loss in as man games.

They would have to sustain a Celtics rush, however. Led by Kevin Garnett, bending rims with his dunks, and Ray Allen slicing the nets with 3s as he tried to do the same to New Jersey’s lead, the Celtics went on an 18-8 run that got them within arm’s length. But that’s as far as the Nets would allow them to get.

New Jersey, a team on pace to be the worst in NBA history, picked up just its sixth win of the season, beating the Celtics 104-96 on the parquet.

Lopez finished with 25 points and seven rebounds. Lee, who left the game in the fourth quarter, scored 21 points, hitting a jumper that hushed the home crowd in the third quarter. And Devin Harris scored 23 points along with five assists.

Meanwhile Celtics fans waited on a comeback that never came.

The Celtics put the Nets on the free throw line 41 times and the Nets knocked down34 shots. Boston made it to the line just 11 times, hitting nine.

Kevin Garnett was one rebound shy of a double-double (26 points and 9 assists), but by the time he turned it on, the Celtics needed a minor miracle to recover.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers made a concerted effort to rest his starters early, but by the time they were all back on the floor the Celtics were in a hole that wound up being too deep to climb out of.


FOURTH QUARTER
44.6, Nets 102-94: Fans are heading for the exits. Kevin Garnett just left the floor with Brian Scalabrine taking his place. It appears to be ... over.

3:06, Nets 100-92: The Celtics keep trying to push, and even thought he Nets aren't trying to budge, it's looking like they could crumble under the pressure. After Kevin Garnett flushed on down, Devin Harris went strong to the rack and drew the foul, converting the 3-point play that made it 98-85. But since then, the Celtics have gone on a 7-0 run sparked another Garnett dunk and a Ray Allen 3-pointer from the corner. It was a 6-point game, until  Kris Humphries sneaked under Kevin Garnett for a lay-up, with Garnett puzzled that it wasn't somehow a travel. The Nets have a minute and a half to pull of a minor miracle. So do the Celtics.

5:30, Nets 94-76: Courtney Lee left the game with a left ankle sprain and will not return.

6:15, Nets 90-76: So instead of asking what if the Celtics lose to the Nets, here's the real question: what if the Celtics lose to the Nets by 20?

6:55, Nets 87-72: The Celtics are trying to make a push, but they can't protect the basketball (15 turnovers) or keep the Nets off the free throw line (29-9). Devin Harris just threw a three-point line alley-opp to Chris Douglas-Roberts then got an and-1 off Brian Scalabrine, converting on the free throw and putting the Celtics in a hole they might not be able to climb out of.

THIRD QUARTER
END OF QUARTER, Nets 74-64: A strange sequence looks like its sparked the Celtics. A busted play left Nate Robinson chasing down a loose ball beyond halfcourt, and he heaved up a prayer thinking the shot clock was up. The official whistled the shot off saying the clock was already expired. Robinson and Doc Rivers both blew up, saying the clock stopped at 2 seconds. The refs put 1 second back on the clock, enough time to get an inbound pass to Rasheed Wallace, who nearly drained a turn and shoot from the far sideline halfcourt. Brian Scalabrine grabbed the rebound and kicked it to Robinson, who knocked down a 3 from straight away. Robinson came back drove to the basket for a deuce that woke up a comatose crowd, but Courtney Lee then drilled a jumper, putting his finger over his mouth shushing the crowd back to silence.

65-52, Nets, 5:14: In case you're were scratching your head, it is indeed the third quarter and the Celtics are indeed trailing the Nets -- those Nets -- by 13.

6:57, Nets 59-52: Marquis Daniels just picked up his fourth foul, getting whistled on the offensive end running into Trenton Hassell sinking a lay-up in what he thought would be an and-1 situation. Brian Scalabrine took is place on the floor.

9:05, Nets 55-46: The Cs are in a little hole, and the Nets are trying to let them out. Devin Harris came out and hit a long J and Brook Lopez has been active, and the only reason the Celtics aren't down double-digits is Marquis Daniels, who's got 6 of the Celtics  8 points. 

Halftime
Nets, 49-42: Rivers put his starters back on the floor for the final four minutes. It looked like they'd make a push going into the break, but they found ways to kill themselves, missing dunks and open jumpers and turning the ball over. Kendrick Perkins drew a technical foul -- his 12th -- for arguing with an official after being called for travel. The Celtics are shooting 50 percent (19 of 38) to the Nets 42 percent (17 of 40, but they're being out-rebounded (20-18)and the Nets are getting to the line more frequently (15 attempts to 5). None of the Celtics' regular starters has played more than 15 minutes in the first half, and with two off days coming up, you get the feeling Rivers is making this a half-day for his players.

Second Quarter
4:06, Nets 46-36: Yi hustled to keep a missed jumper alive, Brook Lopez grabbed the rebound and put it back to give the Nets a 10 point lead and no sooner than the bucket fell, the TD Garden crowd began to boo. The Nets are outrebounding the Celtics 17-12, 5-2 on the offensive glass.

7:08, Nets 37-31: With Rivers giving the bench extended minutes, the Nets have stretched their lead out to 6. Terrence Williams (2), Chris Douglas-Roberts (2) and Kris Humphries (4) have come off the bench to give the Nets a lift. Rivers just plugged Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins back into the game

First Quarter 
END OF QUARTER, Nets 29-27: Doc Rivers appears to be using this game as a chance to give some guys rest. The only starters that played more than eight minutes were Marquis Daniels (12) and Ray Allen (10). Rajon Rondo, who played 45 minutes against Cleveland Thursday, played just four minutes in the first quarter, Nate Robinson came off the bench and converted a couple drives for 4 points

2:00, Celtics 25-23: The Celtics are shooting 68.8 percent, the Nets are shooting 43.8 percent and it's a two point game. New Jersey's gotten to the line 10 times and Brook Lopez is back there for two more as we speak

:5:23, Celtics 16-15: Four Celtics turnovers have turned to 8 points for the Netse, including a fastbreak layup by Courtney Lee that cut it to one.

10:03, Celtics 8-2: Buckets from Marquis Daniels, feeling better after being sick against Cleveland, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen have the Celtics ahead early.
"Bored with the process"
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After leaving the locker room without saying a word Thursday night, Kendrick Perkins opened up completely before this afternoon's game. When he said that sometimes it seems like the Celtics play like they're bored -- something he's said before this season -- all Doc Rivers could say in response was that they were certainly playing that way.

Perkins said:

Guys are really anxious to get to the playoffs. You’ve got your veteran guys – ‘Sheed, KG – you can tell with this regular season really don’t excite them. Even with Paul and Ray. We’ve still got to go out here and compete. It’s not an excuse for losing. You can just tell that guys want to get to the crunch time, get to playoffs.

For example, the Atlanta series when they swept us, we took it to heart, but it wasn’t like a big deal like how everybody else tried to make it. I don’t know if that’s a bad thing. We come into games, we’re focused. We’re not trying to lose games. But sometimes you can see that maybe we sometimes do get bored with the process and you can’t do that.


"Teams win titles"
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There was no actual practice yesterday in Waltham. Players went in, got some shots up and lifted some weights, but when they all came together, head coach Doc Rivers sat them down and had them watch "Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals." Today, the sign above was in the locker room for the first time, and Kendrick Perkins said seeing that movie might explain where it came from: 
Those two guys kept saying as far as individual things, they achieved great things in life but it was all just about team with them. They wanted to win more than anything. I think that’s where that came from

Doc told us yesterday in practice. He asked a question: How many guys are willing to give themselves up for the team? And everybody raised their hand. He was like giving yourself up for the team sometimes you have to go outside your comfort zone. Not taking as many shots as you usually take. Taking a charge for somebody or whatever it may be. He kind of just went around the room and pinpointed what he expected out of each guy.

It’s always good to remind us sometimes. Just to get us back in the right frame of mind, keep us on track, just let guys know what their role is on the team and stuff like that. We’ve still got one goal and that’s to win the championship. Just take “self” out of the equation.

Welcome to the Garden ...

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... where the Celtics and Nets don't look drastically different than they did when they met three weeks ago.

The Celtics came out of the all-star break and won four of their first five, going 3-1 on the road and showing flashes of the team that started the season 23-5. Then the Cavs came through. They pounded the Celtics 108-88, rushing them by 21 points in the fourth quarter, and If time hadn't expired Cleveland would still be extending its lead.

Doc Rivers pulled his starters with 2:50 left in the game. Blowing another halftime lead to a good team left Celtics Rivers sounding listless ("There's nothing I can do about it," he said), Rivers. And Danny Ainge put the responsibility on the starters, who went a combined 5-of-21 in the second half.

The Nets are only one win better (5-52) than they were when they came in Feb. 5 and took a 96-87 loss, keeping alive the possibility of being the worst team in NBA history.

Via the Wall Street Journal's Daily Fix blog:

yiandbrook.JPG At their current pace, the Nets will finish with seven wins, or two fewer than the nine put up by those 76ers, against 73 losses, in the worst 82-game finish in NBA history (and two fewer than the Nets’ Jersey neighbors, the Jets, won in a 16-game schedule last fall).

This year’s Philly team has done its part, sweeping their first three games against New Jersey despite winning barely a third of the rest of their contests — though [Fred] Carter, Philly’s leading scorer in 1972-73, has indicated to the current coaching staff that he wouldn’t mind holding on to the record.

There are reasons to think the Nets can grant his wish and avoid infamy by at least tying those woeful 76ers’ win total. The Nets’ wins have come against four teams, and they’ll play three of them — fellow Eastern Conference clubs Chicago, New York and Charlotte — again a total of four times. Sweep those four games, and the Nets can drop their other 21 and still finish with just 73 losses.


Paul Pierce will likely sit out again today, but the official word will come from Rivers in a few moments.
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