Final, Nets 101-93: It was tough to know what to make of this one. Paul Pierce played well from beginning to end, Jeff Green turned around a cold start for a somewhat solid finish and Brandon Bass disappeared after a strong start as the Celtics lost for the fourth time in six games.
Deron Williams was brilliant, dropping 29 points and 12 assists on the overmatched Boston backcourt. Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez both reached the 20s in scoring, too, while Pierce led the Celtics with 23.
The Celtics get one day to regroup before they take on the Heat in Miami. Whether the Heat’s stars rest might be irrelevant. Even a shorthanded Miami squad might be able to top the Celtics now, especially if either Pierce or Kevin Garnett, who struggled for much of Wednesday’s game, take a rest.
Fourth quarter, 5:17, Nets 93-82: Green has finally woken up a bit. The Nets have forced him to his left all night, and Green has stopped trying to fight it. Green took what they gave him to drive to his left and convert an and-on layup and pull the Celtics within single digits, but the Celtics are not making this easy on themselves.
Playoff seeding aside, it is important for the Celtics, especially the new guys, to figure out how to close out wins. It would be useful for them to do that now, against a fellow East playoff team.
Fourth quarter, 8:49, Nets 85-75: Nothing came of the review. It was unclear what they were looking at the video for, anyway. Back to the game.
Fourth quarter, 8:49, Nets 85-75: Garnett was extremely close to calling it a night early when he got caught up in a scrum with Humphries. As the two big men battled for possession, Garnett appeared to toss an extra elbow at the end of it, just as the shot clock buzzer sounded.
The refs appeared to miss it, which is good news for the Celtics. But the officials are reviewing the tape, which might not be good news for them.
End of third quarter, Nets 79-69: Nobody has been more unlucky with the shot than Terry has been. He had a possible and-one opportunity roll out of the cylinder and his buzzer-beating three over Humphries spun in and out.
Still, this game is not about Terry’s bad luck, but Pierce and Williams’ dominance. The Nets point guard has 19 points and 11 assists heading into the fourth quarter, while Pierce has 23 points on 7-for-9 shooting from the field and 6-for-7 from the line.
Third quarter, 4:19, Nets 68-57: It took until midway through the third quarter, but the Celtics finally took their first free throw. It came courtesy of Pierce, who has started to attack the hoop as nobody on the Celtics had been previously.
At the same time, the foul machine known as Reggie Evans finally picked up his first and second personal fouls of the game.
Pierce’s aggressiveness has opened things up for the Celtics on the perimeter and fired them up on defense. Green drained a three from the corner to pull the Celtics within 11, then Randolph stepped in and drew a charge on Lopez. After a listless two-plus quarters, the Celtics have given their crowd something to cheer about at long last.
Third quarter, 11:11, Nets 56-45: It did not take long for Rivers to be greatly displeased. After Bradley took a tumble, Rivers felt Williams should be called for an offensive foul. But then Williams went down as well, drawing a defensive foul on Bradley (his fourth), and Rivers really got upset. He issued a quick timeout after a three by Johnson to regroup his troops.
Halftime, Nets 53-43: Sure, the Celtics trail at halftime, but let’s all give them a round of applause for going a full half without attempting a single free throw.
The Celtics pulled off the incredibly difficult trick of going 24 minutes without a foul shot, and it did not exactly help that they shot just 20-for-43 on their regular shots. The Nets shot 9-for-10 from the line and 51 percent from the field, meanwhile, making it fairly easy for them to build a double-digit lead despite Wallace and MarShon Brooks suffering injuries in the first half.
Bass and Pierce have busted out some eye-opening plays, including a nifty step-around, flipped-in bank shot by Pierce to cap of Boston’s first half scoring, but not everyone on the Celtics looks as sharp. Garnett really looks off, missing five of the six shots he took, while Green was just 1-for-7 from the floor.
The Nets’ All-Star backcourt is ballin’, though. Williams and Johnson have 27 points combined on 5-for-9 shooting each.
Even with all that, the Celtics would be in this if they could just get to the line. It’s easy to guess that that must be part of Rivers’ halftime points of emphasis.
Second quarter, 4:58, Celtics 37-35: With more or less the starting five in — with Jordan Crawford in place of Green — the Celtics’ defensive rotations conveniently became worlds better. Who knew?
Anyway, that improved D, as well as improved shooting accuracy that is steadily heading upward to near 50 percent, has helped the Celtics recapture the lead. Wilcox gave the Celtics some valuable minutes off the bench, highlighted by a one-handed throw down after he cut down the lane and received a bounce pass from a posted-up Garnett.
Kris Humphries, who has been banished to the bench for much of the second half of the season by Carlesimo, has gotten some rare early burn. Perhaps the Nets hope the widely disliked forward still has something left after the extracurricular activity he had with Garnett the last time the Nets played here.
Second quarter, 9:09, Nets 31-27: Deron Williams is having a field day against the Likes of Terry, Lee and Terrence Williams. The all-world point guard, who is finally getting fully healthy and playing to his full potential this season, bullied his way into the lane and shoved aside the much larger Wilcox for a fadeaway bank shot. He then penetrated to the right block and whipped an over-the-shoulder pass to Andray Blatche for a dunk.
The Nets could have a tough time keep up with the Celtics’ smaller lineup, however, as Wallace had to be helped off the court during the last timeout. It was a weird situation, because there did not appear to be any obvious sign that he was injured until a convoy carried him to the tunnel.
End of first quarter, Nets 22-21: Bass is continuing his strong play from the last game, hitting his first four shots to finish the quarter 4-for-5 from the field for a team-leading eight points. But the Celtics have been unable to hold a lead thanks to a defensively challenged second unit.
Chris Wilcox, Shavlik Randolph, Courtney Lee, Jason Terry and Green struggled to match up in transition and as a result gave Brooklyn plenty of open looks. Terry and Green seemed confused as C.J. Watson brought the ball up court on the secondary break and drilled a pull-up 3-pointer with no defenders within five feet of him.
First quarter, 6:22, Celtics 13-7: Pay no attention to the score. The pace of this game has been relatively fast for these slow-poke teams. They just have not done a great job of putting the ball in the hole.
For the Nets, it is a matter of holding onto the ball. They have three turnovers, and it really should be four, as the refs missed Evans stepping on the end line while trying to save the ball out of bounds. The Celtics have no turnovers, but Garnett has missed his first four shots, including three makeable layups on one possession.
7:26 p.m.: The Celtics and Nets will never been mistaken for the best of buds, but Jeff Green and Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo do share a special bond. Carlesimo was Green’s first NBA coach, and the Seattle SuperSonics coach was tough on the rookie out of Georgetown. Carlesimo even went so far as the say he did not think Green was a very good player coming out of college.
Still, Carlesimo’s less-than-glowing opinion of Green taught the young player to have a thick skin. Green said the biggest difference between Carlesimo and Doc Rivers, his current coach, is that Carlesimo swears more. Green says he sees Carlesimo’s imprint on the Nets’ midseason turnaround, as they are playing harder and tougher than they did before Carlesimo took over in December.
Carlesimo and Green have stayed in contact since Green was traded to Boston by the now-Oklahoma City franchise in 2011. Carlesimo called Green “a first-class individual” before the game, adding that Green is “one of my most favorite guys I’ve ever coached.”
The projected starting lineups appear below.
8 a.m. ET: The Celtics have declared their intentions — if not with their words, then with their actions. They will take it easy with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett the rest of the regular season, doing just enough to stay out of the dreaded eighth spot in the Eastern Conference standings but not doing so much as to strain their veteran stars.
At least Pierce figures to be active for Wednesday’s game against the Nets (44-32), who have already beaten the Celtics (40-37) twice in three meetings this season. Those victories came with a much less effective Deron Williams, who struggled with ankle pain for most of the season before finally rounding into his old form in the last month.
Interim coach P.J. Carlesimo also appears to have found some stability with his rotation now that he has committed to Reggie Evans, a 6-foot-8 bundle of energy. The Celtics’ front line is in for a workout.
Join us for updates and analysis from TD Garden for the regular season’s penultimate home game, which tips off at 8 p.m. ET.