Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo Struggle Offensively As Celtics Lose 88-79 to Nets


Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo Struggle Offensively As Celtics Lose 88-79 to Nets NEWARK, N.J. – Brook Lopez scored 20 points, Deron Williams added 16 and made the clinching 3-pointer, and the New Jersey Nets extended their longest winning streak in three years to five games with an 88-79 victory over the Boston Celtics on Monday night.

Kris Humphries had 16 points and 15 rebounds, following his strong performance against Blake Griffin by turning in one against Kevin Garnett to help the Nets snap a nine-game home losing streak against the Celtics.

New Jersey has won five in a row overall for the first time since late December-early January in the 2007-08 season.

Ray Allen scored 19 points and Garnett had 18 for the Celtics, who couldn't overcome horrible shooting nights from All-Stars Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo and fell back into a tie with Chicago for the best record in the Eastern Conference.

A night after allowing a franchise low in the shot clock era in an 87-56 victory over Milwaukee, the Celtics wasted a good defensive effort with a bad offensive one. Pierce was 2-of-10 for seven points, while Rondo shot 1-of-10 and scored two.

Rondo, who went down after a hard pick in the first half and briefly went to the locker room in the third quarter, missed his first seven shots before making a jumper with 3:10 left in third quarter.

The Celtics have been so successful and so popular when they play in New Jersey that the games seem better suited for the TD Garden than the Garden State. The Nets finally beat Boston at home for the first time since April 16, 2006.

The Nets announced their second straight sellout and third of the season at the Prudential Center, but the arena was decorated in so much green it seemed the St. Patrick's Day celebrations had started a few days early.

But the Nets started to win the crowd with a strong finish to the third quarter, when Anthony Morrow and Sundiata Gaines made 3-pointers in the final 34 seconds, with Gaines' coming at the buzzer to give New Jersey a 67-61 lead.

The Nets extended it to 74-62 on Travis Outlaw's 3-pointer with 9:34 remaining. The Celtics quickly cut into it, but missed a chance to grab a lead when Allen missed from 3-point range with about 4 minutes left, and botched a chance to tie inside 3 minutes when called for a 3-second violation.

After Rondo missed a jumper that would have tied it with about 1 1/2 minutes to go, Lopez made a short jumper for an 83-79 edge with 1:14 remaining. The Celtics failed to score and Williams, back after missing the last two games following the birth of a child, nailed a 3 with 35 seconds to go to make it 86-79.

The Celtics picked up defensively where they left off Sunday. New Jersey took a 14-9 lead with 6:28 left in the first quarter, then missed its final 10 shots while going scoreless for the remainder of the period while the Celtics took a 23-14 lead.

The Nets missed two more to open the second, but the Celtics couldn't extend their lead while giving plenty of time to their reserves. With Rondo missing all six shots in the half, Boston scored only 15 points in the period and led 38-36 at the break.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers said G Delonte West (sprained right ankle) could return Wednesday against Indiana. … Troy Murphy, who spent most of the season away from the Nets while awaiting a trade, then was bought out after being dealt to Golden State and signed with Boston, was booed when he entered. Murphy was a New Jersey high school star. … The Nets will send reserve G Ben Uzoh to Springfield on Tuesday to begin a stint with their NBA Development League affiliate.

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