Final: Celtics 94, Nets 80. They say the last game before the All-Star break is always the toughest. For the Celtics, that was only true for the first 42 minutes. They annihilated the Nets for the final six.
The C's hold the Nets scoreless for a solid five-plus minutes in crunch time, burying them with a 16-0 run. A late nailbiter turns into a laughing matter.
Paul Pierce finishes with 31 points to lead the C's; Kevin Garnett drops a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. The C's veterans give a solid effort down the stretch on both ends.
Brook Lopez finishes with 18 points for the Nets; Devin Harris adds 16 and Anthony Morrow, 14.
The All-Star break is here — four Celtics will be in action Sunday night at the Staples Center, while the rest of them will have to wait until next Tuesday. The C's open their four-game road trip next week at Golden State.
Fourth quarter, 1:26, Celtics 91-78: Now it's a 14-0 run. The fans are filing for the exits at the TD Garden.
Avery Bradley and Luke Harangody check in for Rondo and KG.
You've got to hand it to the Celtics — their effort wasn't totally there, but they stepped up when it mattered. Nice win.
Fourth quarter, 2:59, Celtics 87-78: It's a 10-0 run for the Celtics, including the last five points from Paul Pierce.
This looks like another one of "those" nights — the first three quarters don't matter as long as the C's keep it close going into the fourth. They know how to get it done in crunch time.
Fourth quarter, 3:57, Celtics 85-78: Paul Pierce just hit the shot of the night, a perfect 3 from the top of the key. The Celtics' lead opens from four to seven.
The Nets haven't scored in almost three minutes. If the Celtics keep putting stops together, then game over.
Fourth quarter, 5:52, Celtics 80-78: Ray Allen just drilled the Celtics' first 3 of the night. They're now 1-for-10.
Ray's jumper gives them the lead again, 80-78. Can they hold on?
Fourth quarter, 7:42, Celtics 75-73: Kendrick Perkins just swatted a Sasha Vujacic shot attempt into the third row of the seats. He's fired up now.
The C's might finally be mustering the energy and focus to win this thing.
Fourth quarter, 10:27, Celtics 71-70: Bad news comes in twos for the Nets — the Celtics take an early lead in the fourth quarter, and Travis Outlaw goes down with an undisclosed injury. He takes a while to get back up.
Anthony Morrow comes into the game for Outlaw. The Nets could use his shot-creating instincts right about now.
End of third quarter, 70-70: They were all tied up at halftime, and they're now tied again after three. When will the C's turn it on?
A monster quarter from Brook Lopez keeps the Nets neck and neck with the C's with 12 minutes to play. Lopez now has 16 points; Paul Pierce has 24 for the Celtics.
The C's are capable of putting this one away if they focus on solid execution. Solid ball movement, consistent defensive effort, the usual. They've struggled with those things a lot since the opening minutes.
Third quarter, 2:58, Nets 64-63: The Celtics rattle off a 7-1 run, but they keep missing a maddening number of easy looks inside. They should be ahead by now.
If they keep putting stops together, the C's can take control of this game soon. But they can't take anything for granted — the Nets have already proven they can take advantage if the C's slack off.
Third quarter, 5:43, Nets 63-56: The Nets are getting a lot of scoring out of their quick, athletic guards creating shots. Anthony Morrow and Devin Harris now have 11 points each.
The Celtics don't appear to have the energy to contest the Nets' shots tonight. The Nets are shooting 54 percent, a figure that was actually even higher a few minutes ago.
Third quarter, 7:48, Nets 60-52: I don't know what got into Brook Lopez, but he turned into Wilt Chamberlain at halftime. He's now got 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting.
Doc Rivers just yanked Kendrick Perkins after an offensive foul and an ensuing technical. For the moment, it'll be Glen Davis guarding Lopez. Good luck to him — he might need it.
Third quarter, 10:08, Nets 54-46: This isn't pretty. The Nets have gotten off to an 8-0 run to open the second half, capped off by an easy layup from Devin Harris in transition.
The Celtics have gone cold with their shots, and their energy is nonexistent. Mentally, they're already in Los Angeles.
Halftime, 46-46: After a rather ugly effort in the second quarter, the Celtics are now tied with the Nets at the break. After they started this game with leads of 8-0 and 10-1, they probably didn't expect this.
Paul Pierce leads the way for Boston with 13 points; Brook Lopez gives the Nets 10.
The C's need better effort on both ends in the second half. They're capable of more than this.
Second quarter, 2:56, Celtics 44-41: The Nets had a sluggish start to this game, but they've come out much more physical in the second quarter. They now have a 15-14 advantage on the glass. Nine Nets players have at least one rebound.
The Celtics look like they got complacent after a solid first 10 minutes. They're struggling to stay motivated at this point.
Second quarter, 5:49, Celtics 36-32: Brook Lopez just grabbed onto Kendrick Perkins under the basket, going for a rebound. He holds on too long, gets whistled for a foul, and he isn't happy.
Anthony Morrow grabs the young fella and calms him down.
Second quarter, 6:26, Celtics 35-30: Derrick Favors just got an offensive board and put it back for his first bucket of the ballgame. He's now got two points and two boards.
The kid can play, but this Celtics matchup is tough for him. Kendrick Perkins is so big and protects the rim so well, Favors can't really get anything going.
Second quarter, 8:43, Celtics 33-28: Luke Harangody is really fired up. He's driving the lane and barreling into people now, drawing contact like a young Paul Pierce. Too bad he's a rookie, so he can't get the same calls.
Harangody's now got eight points, more than any Net in this game. The rookie can play when he gets the chance.
Second quarter, 10:01, Celtics 31-26: Luke Harangody is giving the Celtics a nice little jolt of instant offense. He's got six points on 2-of-3 shooting already.
Ray Allen just made a brilliant pass, passing up a contested 3 to find Harangody open in the paint. That's teamwork.
End of first quarter, Celtics 27-22: So much for the Celtics overlooking the final game before All-Star weekend. The C's showed up tonight, no doubt. They're out to give the Nets a beating.
Paul Pierce leads the way for the C's in the first quarter, pouring in 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting. Kevin Garnett adds six.
The Nets get five points from Devin Harris, and a nice 3 from Anthony Morrow on their final possession to cut the Boston lead to five. But the C's are still in good shape.
First quarter, 2:43, Celtics 23-10: Doc Rivers is back to his two-man bench rotation, with Glen Davis and Von Wafer being his only two totally healthy reserves. Both have been effective so far.
Wafer just knocked down a jumper to widen the Celtics' lead to 13; Davis has played tough defense on Kris Humphries so far.
The C's rotation isn't deep, but it's been really good.
First quarter, 4:05, Celtics 21-10: This is the Paul Pierce we all know and love. He was 0-for-10 Sunday; now he's 5-for-6.
The Celtics are about to run away with this thing.
First quarter, 6:11, Celtics 15-6: This is getting ugly. The C's have gotten out to a huge early lead.
Kevin Garnett knocks down a deadly 20-footer; he's now got four points. Paul Pierce has eight. The C's are now 7-for-12 from the field.
The Nets look clueless on defense. That's supposed to be Avery Johnson's specialty, isn't it?
First quarter, 9:14, Celtics 8-1: Paul Pierce gambles for a steal, and he misses. Travis Outlaw burns him. He draws contact from Kendrick Perkins and gets to the line for two.
Congratulations to the Nets, who have scored their first point.
First quarter, 9:55, Celtics 6-0: We're only two minutes in, and Nets coach Avery Johnson has already burned two timeouts. Pace yourself, A.J.
In his defense, the timeouts might be necessary. The Nets have yet to do anything right. They need a good talking-to.
Pierce now has four times his Sunday point total.
First quarter, 11:41, Celtics 2-0: If Paul Pierce is still battling hand and foot injuries, he hasn't shown it yet. The C's captain gets inside and scores on the opening possession.
Pierce may not play many minutes in this one, on account of his nagging injuries. But with the minutes he does receive, he's going to be an assertive scorer.
He's already got more points in 19 seconds against the Nets than he did in the entire Heat game on Sunday.
7:20 p.m.: There's good news and bad on the injury front. The good news is that Nate Robinson is over his minor knee injury, and he'll be fine to play Wednesday with no restrictions; the bad news is no return and no timetable for Delonte West.
Nate might have to play big minutes. The C's bench has never been thinner.
5:45 p.m.: According to multiple reports, Delonte is a no-go. The Celtics want to be as cautious as possible to ensure his health long-term, so you can't blame them for holding him back.
Looks like next week, when the C's tip off their West road trip against Golden State, is the new target date.
More details to come…
5:30 p.m.: Welcome to the TD Garden, where the Celtics will take the court on Wednesday night for the last time before the All-Star break arrives this weekend.
The C's are happy to remain at home, where they're 24-5 this season; they were 24-17 at the Garden last year. They've got a chance Wednesday to surpass their home win total from 2009-10.
Plenty more updates to come, including the status of Delonte West, who hopes to make his return from a 12-week absence with a broken wrist.
1 p.m.: The outlook isn't good for Delonte West's comeback, as the C's guard missed shootaround on Wednesday morning and doubt still abounds about his surgically repaired right wrist.
West got hit on the hand Tuesday in practice, and it's unclear how long he'll need to recover.
The C's should exercise caution with West — if he can injure the wrist in practice, going up against his own teammates, it could only get worse in a game. We all remember what happened last time West played the Nets.
8 a.m.: Often when the Celtics have run into trap games this season, it's because they're playing the second game of a back-to-back stretch, and they run out of the requisite energy to play 96 hard minutes.
But physical focus is only one problem the C's have to worry about — the other is mental. And mentally, there are few tougher games than one like the C's have Wednesday night, the final game before this weekend's All-Star break, when they take on the visiting New Jersey Nets at the TD Garden.
Even C's coach Doc Rivers, the consummate professional, admitted that keeping the team focused for the first-half finale is a real challenge.
"Everybody's on break already," Rivers said. "New Jersey's flying in, and probably half their team has plans to leave from Boston to go on vacation. You have half our guys packing for L.A., and the other half going to — gosh knows where they're going. You just want to make sure you finish the game first before you do it."
Four Celtics — Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo — are headed to Los Angeles for the All-Star Game. A few others, most notably Kendrick Perkins and Glen Davis, weren't selected for the game but will tag along out west.
The C's are distracted by the game, the festivities, the vacation time, and then a four-game road trip beginning next week. They've still got to show up and bring their best game against the Nets.
"It's still a game you have to play," Garnett said. "It's not anything you have to psyche yourself out for. I've always been told that the last game before the break is probably the most important, because there's momentum. Especially when you're getting ready to go on the road and you're leaving for a while."
The C's and the Nets tip off at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.