Celtics Improve to 2-0 in Preseason With Solid Bench Effort in Fourth Quarter

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Celtics Improve to 2-0 in Preseason With Solid Bench Effort in Fourth QuarterFinal: Celtics 96, Nets 92. It wasn't as clean an effort as Wednesday night's opener in Manchester, N.H., but the Celtics have come away with their second preseason win in New Jersey.

A ragtag group of the Celtics' bench scrubs holds down the win by playing solid defense in the final minute, Marquis Daniels hits a clutch 3, and Nate Robinson hits his free throws down the stretch to seal the deal. It's a 96-92 win for the Celtics, polishing off a pair of victories in the C's season-opening back-to-back.

The Nets' Brook Lopez leads all scorers with 23 in this game, but the Celtics get a nice balanced effort to prevail in the end. Glen Davis leads the way with 20 off the bench, Robinson adds 17, and Paul Pierce leads the way for the starting unit, contributing 15 points and six rebounds.

The C's are 2-0 this preseason and will take on the Toronto Raptors at the TD Garden on Sunday evening.

Fourth quarter, 9.7 seconds, Celtics 95-92: Anthony Morrow just blew the game for the Nets. A boneheaded mistake from the former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket, stepping out of bounds as he tries to get off the game-tying 3, and Nate Robinson will have two more free throws and a chance to ice the win.

Fourth quarter, 15.7 seconds, Celtics 95-92: Nate Robinson matches Humphries tit for tat, knocking down two freebies of his own. The Celtics may foul again, putting the Nets at the line for two shots instead of giving them a chance at a 3 to tie the game and force overtime.

The Celtics' starters are enjoying watching this one from the bench. No matter what happens, they're not going back out there.

Fourth quarter, 19.6 seconds, Celtics 93-92: Two huge free throws from Kris Humphries. Now the Nets have to foul…

Fourth quarter, 35.4 seconds, Celtics 93-90: Holy unlikely unsung heroes, Batman. Marquis Daniels comes up with a huge 3 from the corner to put the Celtics back in front.

After the dueling trifectas, the Celtics need one more stop to finish the deal.

Fourth quarter, 59.0 seconds, 90-90: Jordan Farmar shocks the Celtics with a deep 3. We're all tied up.

Can the Celtics' bench guys tough this one out to the end? Time for the youngsters to prove their mettle.

Fourth quarter, 1:34, Celtics 90-87: Terrence Williams is doing everything in his power to keep the Nets alive in this game. He now has 17 points off the bench, and the Nets are still very much in this thing.

Fourth quarter, 2:49, Celtics 90-86: The Nets get a quick 4-0 burst out of Damion James and Terrence Williams. They're not going away just yet.

If fringe D-League types Mario West and Stephane Lasme want to prove their worth to the Celtics' big-league squad, they could do it by helping the C's get a couple of big defensive stops to polish off this win.

Fourth quarter, 4:24, Celtics 87-82: Derrick Favors' night is over. Three points, six fouls.

The Nets are letting Lopez and Harris sit in crunch time, it would appear. It doesn't look like they've got the firepower to overcome the Celtic lead. The C's are one or two Nate Robinson jumpers away from icing this thing.

Fourth quarter, 5:20, Celtics 85-82: Which is worse news for the Celtics — the fact that Semih Erden picks up his sixth foul, or the fact that Terrence Williams hits the ensuing two free throws, making this a one-possession game?

It's a scary combination. The C's are headed for crunch time without a guy who's been a big star off their bench these first couple games.

No Shaq, No Semih, no size. This is an impotent Celtics' front line without its two 7-footers.

Fourth quarter, 6:07, Celtics 85-80: We've seen back-to-back nights now of high lottery picks giving underwhelming performances against the Celtics. On Wednesday night, it was No. 2 draft pick Evan Turner, who shot a gruesome 1-for-8 against the C's for Philadelphia; in this one, No. 3 pick Derrick Favors hasn't been much better.

Favors has more personal fouls (four) in this game than points (three). He's shooting 1-for-6. He keeps trying to be physical and make things happen down low, but it's just not working — even against the undersized Davis/Harangody front line.

It's still early. Maybe as the season goes on, the Atlantic Division's two star rookies can emerge as real threats. Right now, the Celtics are laughing in their faces.

Fourth quarter, 7:58, Celtics 85-77: Marquis Daniels rushes into the hole with a burst of speed, creating an easy layup and pushing the Boston lead back to eight. The C's second unit continues to shine.

This isn't the same Marquis Daniels you witnessed last season. This guy isn't just healthy — he's focused and committed to playing hard.

Of course, Daniels started last season this strong, too. The real question is whether he'll sustain it for a whole year this time around.

Fourth quarter, 9:48, Celtics 79-74: A 3 from Jordan Farmar and a running jumper from Terrence Williams makes it a five-point game again. These young Nets clearly have the energy to capitalize if the Celtics get tired and lazy.Last year's Celtics had a knack for blowing games like this, sputtering at the end of back-to-backs and collapsing in the fourth quarter. Will these C's be better?

End of third quarter, Celtics 77-69: This game has slowed down considerably — a run-and-gun first half gave way to a dragging defensive struggle of a third quarter. Having pushed their lead to eight, the Celtics will definitely take it.

The C's have a somewhat comfortable lead, but they have to be concerned with Brook Lopez taking on their foul-troubled bigs. This game is far from over — if Avery Johnson goes back to Lopez in the fourth quarter and works him hard in crunch time, the Nets can get right back in it.

Third quarter, 1:42, Celtics 75-64: An underrated aspect of this third quarter has been the solid defense of the C's second unit. Delonte West and Marquis Daniels have come up big, clamping down on the Nets' wing scorers, and the Nets as a team are now under 40 percent shooting for the night.

Shaq and Semih are both now sitting, leaving the C's with a big man duo of Glen Davis and Luke Harangody. The Nets are wisely going big, going at the Celtics' undersized front line with Johan Petro, Joe Smith and Travis Outlaw.

Third quarter, 4:14, Celtics 73-64: Brook Lopez leads all scorers tonight with 23 points. You know why? He's 13-for-15 from the free-throw line.

The Celtics have been hacking Lopez like crazy tonight. In addition to Shaq's five fouls, Erden now has five as well.

With Kendrick Perkins and Jermaine O'Neal injured, the C's are running seriously low on centers. Luke Harangody might have a tall order in front of him in the fourth quarter.

Third quarter, 6:18, Celtics 71-61: Shaq now has five — count em, five — fouls. Expect to see another nice, long run from Semih Erden, who already played 18 consecutive minutes in the first half. He's ready for round two.

Hack-a-Shaq has been a storyline for O'Neal's whole career. Tonight, O'Neal's the one doing the hacking.

Third quarter, 9:11, Celtics 65-56: The good news for Shaquille O'Neal: Back-to-back buckets inside give the Celtics a 7-0 run and a sizable third-quarter lead. The bad: Hacking Brook Lopez gives him four fouls. He might need to take a seat again soon.

Brook Lopez has set up camp at the free-throw line tonight.

Third quarter, 10:54, Celtics 61-56: The Celtics' starters are back on the floor to start the third quarter (although if you'd forgotten who these guys are, I can't blame you). A 3-pointer from Paul Pierce gives the Celtics their largest lead of the night at five.

Maybe now, after resting the entire second quarter, the Celtics' starting unit will come out with renewed energy.

Halftime, Celtics 56-54: The Celtics erase a nine-point deficit in the second quarter without their starters lifting a finger. How about Delonte West? The Celtics' backup guard comes up with 12 points, all in the second quarter, on 5-of-6 shooting.

Glen Davis has 14 points off the bench at halftime, and Nate Robinson has nine.

The Nets' Brook Lopez leads all scorers in the first half with 17.

Neither side is playing much defense, but it's hard to fault the C's. They're playing New Jersey, they're banged up, they're on the tail end of a back-to-back, and oh, right. They're old.

Second quarter, 2:32, Nets 49-45: Anthony Morrow is starting to find his offensive game — the Nets' shooting guard struggled in the first quarter, but he's now got six points and he's put the Nets back up by four as we near halftime.

The Nets got Morrow on the cheap this summer, swapping a second-round draft pick for the 25-year-old wing guy. Nice value on a low-risk move for New Jersey.

The C's are still sticking with their second unit. This been a long run for those guys. I can almost hear Glen Davis panting from here.

Second quarter, 5:26, Celtics 40-38: The Celtics have their largest lead of the game. Two.

Delonte West nails a corner jumper. He's been impressive — both with the shots he's making, and the ones he's passing up. D-West has shown the modesty to take only the sensible open jumpers, relying on his teammates to create the offense when he can't come through.

The chemistry on this second unit is really impressive.

Second quarter, 6:28, Nets 38-35: These are two young, energetic benches. Really fun to watch. Nate Robinson is barrelling all over the floor making things happen for the C's, and the Nets are getting instant offense out of youngster Terrence Williams.

Putting the starters back on the floor would make for better basketball, but these bench guys sure are entertaining. In a preseason game, I'll take it.

Second quarter, 8:48, Nets 32-29: The C's extend their quarter-opening run to 10-0 and briefly take a one-point lead, but the Nets backup bigs pound in a couple buckets to pull back in front.

Johan Petro is an underrated bench guy. A coup of a signing for the Nets this summer at three years and $10 million, the former Denver Nugget is a powerful, athletic 7-footer that can pound the ball down low and also play a little D.

Petro and the veteran Joe Smith make it 32-29 Jersey. Doc's sticking with his second unit in an effort to erase the Nets' lead.

Second quarter, 10:20, Nets 28-27: The Celtics' second unit brings the energy in a big way, and it's an 8-0 run for the C's to open the second quarter. They're back in this game.

Glen Davis and Marquis Daniels are killing the Nets' bench guys. And credit's also due to Nate Robinson, who fires a bullet of an entry pass inside to Semih Erden for a nice bucket. The C's are rolling.

End of first quarter, Nets 28-19: Lackluster first quarter for the Celtics in their first road game; awesome first quarter for Brook Lopez and the Nets. Lopez finishes with 13 points and four rebounds. He's 3-for-6 from the field and 7-for-9 from the line.

Paul Pierce has eight points for Boston and Kevin Garnett has five. The offense isn't the problem, though. The C's have to give a better effort on the other end.

First quarter, 2:22, Nets 24-17: Seven personal fouls for each team so far in the first quarter. The Nets are 8-for-11 from the free-throw line; the Celtics are 2-for-5.

This isn't even that physical of a game, per se, but both teams have looked lazy defensively and the officials are calling it a bit tight.

Semih Erden and Glen Davis are the bigs on the floor for the C's at the moment. Neither one of them seems to have an answer for Brook Lopez.

First quarter, 4:44, Nets 19-10: Terrence Williams gets a basket and a Ray Allen foul, putting him at the line with a chance to make it a double-digit New Jersey lead. Every Celtic starter now has at least one personal foul, and Shaq has three.

This is what veteran teams sometimes do on the tail end of a back-to-back. They get too lazy to play legitimate defense, so they just start hacking.

The C's need some fresh legs on the floor. Doc will soon dig deeper into his bench, no doubt.

First quarter, 6:02, Nets 15-9: In a move that should surprise no one, Doc Rivers is giving us an early look at Semih Erden.

This should be a great matchup to watch — the young, long, athletic Erden against the young, long, athletic Brook Lopez. If Semih can hold his own against an All-Star caliber center tonight, that would be a huge feather in his cap. Let's see what the kid can do.

First quarter, 8:29, Nets 9-4: What a frustrating start for the Celtics. Shaq isn't getting the job done against the Nets' agile Brook Lopez, and the C's as a team are shooting just 2-for-5. Lopez has more points (five) than the Celtics' entire team (four).

No shame in getting outplayed by Lopez, though. That kid will be an All-Star this winter, mark my words.

First quarter, 10:34, Nets 5-0: Not a good start for the Diesel. Shaquille O'Neal first misses a wide-open dunk, and then once he gets to the line on a ticky-tack Outlaw foul, he manages to miss three free throws.

At first it looked like he'd only ohfer the two shots, but a lane violation gives him a third, and he misses that as well.

I wonder if Shaq has ever missed three free throws in one sitting? He's only attempted 22 treys in his career. He probably doesn't get to the line for the trifecta too often.

First quarter, 11:45, Nets 2-0: We're underway, and the Nets have drawn first blood. Reason No. 69,423 that this New Jersey team will be better than last year: Travis Outlaw. That guy can score, and a nice mid-range dagger from the former Blazer makes it 2-0 Jersey early on.

6:30 p.m.: The latest news out of the Nets' corner: Devin Harris will play in Thursday's game despite the bruised foot that's limited him this week. The Nets' point guard missed Tuesday's game against Philly as a precautionary measure, although X-rays came back negative and Harris should be good to go.

In other news, Nets coach Avery Johnson is hoping Doc Rivers and the Celtics use their starters in Thursday's game.

"I'm hoping Doc does," Johnson told the Star-Ledger in New Jersey. "I have to talk to him about that. We want to see their main guys for 32 minutes. I'm going to call him this afternoon and beg him to play his main guys."

Good luck with that. The C's are on the tail end of a season-opening back-to-back. Expect Doc to empty his bench early and often.

2:30 p.m.: New Jersey native Shaquille O'Neal has come out with a big statement regarding tonight's opponent, his hometown Nets — and it has nothing to do with Derrick Favors or Brook Lopez. Shaq wants to keep the Nets in Newark.

Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is poised to move his franchise north to Brooklyn as soon as 2012, when the construction of a new arena can be completed. Shaq will do anything to stop them.

"Maybe … I can come down there and become general manager," he told the Bergen County Record. "I think the owner, the beautiful Russian guy, should get with the people of the arena and the other people and me, and we should get it done."

Good luck with that, Shaq. But first, focus on making your rotations on D and stopping the pick and roll. Maybe grab a few extra rebounds, too.

1:30 p.m.: Lost in the shuffle of Celtics storylines following Wednesday's season opener: Shaquille O'Neal looked surprisingly potent as the C's starting center against the Sixers.

O'Neal played just 15 minutes on Wednesday, ceding plenty of time to rookie sensation Semih Erden, but in his limited time he dropped eight points, two rebounds and even a steal to help the cause of the men in green.

And aside from the numbers, here's the crazy part: He actually looked like an athlete. You could see him moving, rotating, playing Celtic defense the way it was meant to be played. If Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett can turn Shaq into a valuable cog in their defensive machine this season, and not a pick-and-roll black hole, they deserve a medal.

So far, they're we'll on their way.

9 a.m.: The Celtics have no reason to complain about their preseason opener, a 93-65 laugher of a win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night.

But if they have any complaints at all, they'd be about hitting the road to go straight to New Jersey for another game less than 24 hours later.

The C's will take on the Nets at 7 p.m. on Thursday. In the process, they become the first NBA team to visit the Prudential Center, where the Nets have temporarily set up shop while they wait for their new arena to open in Brooklyn in 2012.

The Nets were a 70-loss team last season, but they've made some significant cosmetic improvements to their roster for this year, most notably adding a No. 3 overall draft pick and potential franchise player in Derrick Favors.

This one should be fun — provided the Celtics still have anything left in the tank after Wednesday night.

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