Game over, Celtics win 94-82: E'Twaun Moore finished off the Celtics' victory with five quick points off the bench, and the Celtics edged back within a half-game of Atlanta for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Fourth quarter, 3:31, Celtics 87-70: Garnett had already gone to the bench with more than six minutes on the game clock when Pierce came up limping. Pierce's ouchie did not look serious, but Rivers wasted no time yanking Pierce to keep his veteran healthy in this tough three-game, three-night stretch.
Pietrus took exception for Humphries delivering some post-whistle contact, and Pietrus picked up the technical foul. Stiemsma got Humphries back for his teammate by catching an oop and dunking on Humphries.
Whatever happens, staying healthy and behaving themselves will be the most important things in the final three-plus minutes.
Fourth quarter, 7:57, Celtics 78-63: Bradley closed the third quarter by revealing the shot that may make him a 12-year pro by knocking down three corner 3-pointers. A former Celtic by the name of Bruce Bowen made his entire career out of just defending and hitting corner threes, so if Bradley makes that a regular part of his arsenal, we will be talking about him for the next decade in the NBA.
Why bring up something that happened in the last quarter? Well, there really wasn't a whole lot interesting to report from the first four minutes of the fourth quarter. The Nets seemed resigned to their fate.
End of the third quarter, Celtics 74-61: It seems crazy to call a mid-April game in New Jersey a must-win, but this one could be a must-win for the Celtics. The Hawks show no signs of slowing and the Celtics need every win they can get, particularly against inferior competition.
The Celtics appeared to be on their way to taking care of business on Saturday. They trounced the Nets 26-13 out of halftime and could earn some extra rest by adding a few more points to this lead in the fourth quarter.
Rondo was back to his stellar self in the third, dishing out two assists with no turnovers and scoring four points.
Third quarter, 3:22, Celtics 69-67: Back-to-back three-balls by Bradley will make just about any team ask for a quick timeout. Back-to-back threes that hand the Celtics their largest lead of the night? It was an easy decision for Johnson.
The run followed an "oh my goodness" alley-oop dunk from Williams to Green. Williams looked like he lost the ball in the rafters and then Green just… wow.
Third quarter, 4:39, Celtics 61-55: Avery Johnson got all sorts of worked up when Bass basically out-jumped Humphries for an offensive rebound early in the quarter. Rather than get mad at Humphries for not boxing out, though, Johnson got ticked at the refs and picked up a technical foul.
Sticking up for your players is understandable, but not even a fiery guy like Johnson could reasonably believe Bass fouled Humphries on that play.
Johnson just got more fired up as the quarter wore on, but his rage was once again misdirected. The officials were not the ones getting outscored 11-7 to begin the third quarter while getting outrebounded 11-6 by one of the least effective rebounding teams in the NBA.
Third quarter, 8:17, Celtics 55-48: It took more than two minutes for either team to crack the scoring column in the second half. Once the Celtics did, with a dunk by Garnett from Bass, they were off and running.
The Celtics opened the half with seven unanswered points to finally show some fire against the Nets. The third quarter was Boston's problem quarter on Friday. We'll see if it will be the quarter in which they pull away in this one.
Halftime, game tied 48-48: Life is so much different now for Green. Out of the NBA at the start of the season, the D-League call-up has been living the good life and he was rewarded on the final shot of the first half.
Green tossed up a prayer at the buzzer to knot up the score after Bass had hit a jump shot that looked like it would give Boston a three-point lead headed into the half.
The Celtics shot an acceptable 48 percent from the field and won the battled of the boards 23-17 in the first half, but as we have mentioned multiple times, their focus on defense was missing. The Nets hit more than half of their shots and were able to matched the Celtics despite Boston holding a 15-3 advantage in free throw attempts.
The Good: Deron Williams and Kevin Garnett staged a battle for who was the best player on the floor. Williams handed out 10 assists while Garnett scored 13 points with eight rebounds, two assists and two steals. … Brandon Bass did not play well in Toronto while gutting out a sore knee, but the early results were much better for the LSU product in this one. Bass hit five of his nine shots and gobbled up four rebounds. … Paul Pierce's all-around play was deceptively good. Seeming to go only at half-speed, Pierce picked up 12 points, four rebounds and four assists.
The Bad: Rajon Rondo was not as sharp running the team as his seven assists suggest. Rondo missed both shots he took, picked up three personal fouls and handed the ball over four times.
The So-so: Green supplied some athletic drives and offensive moves, but he was only 3-for-7 from the field and committed two turnovers in 15 minutes.
Second quarter, 2:45, Celtics 40-38: The Rondo and Bradley show continued to be fun to watch, and it generated two straight buckets to push the Celtics into the lead.
The Nets are one of the worst shot-blocking teams in the NBA, but they seemed to be doing pretty well in the opening 21 minutes. They blocked two shots and contested numerous more by the Celtics.
Second quarter, 5:49, Nets 36-31: Bradley pulled the Celtics within a point when he split a pair of free throws, but the Nets responded with two quick baskets — including a pretty step-back jumper by Green, who does not get cheated for his looks — to extend their lead again.
The Celtics continue shooting at a decent clip, but turnovers and their lackadaisical rotating on defense have made it easy for New Jersey to score.
Second quarter, 8:20, Nets 32-30: Garnett was extremely active on the block a the beginning of the second quarter. Being covered by Johan Petro will do that.
Garnett scored six points and pulled down three rebounds in the first four minutes of action in the second frame. He also made his third trip to the line in this game, knocking down both shots.
The Celtics had nothing going to the rim on offense for the second straight night, so Garnett's work in the post could be vital to the Celtics generating high-percentage looks.
End of first quarter, Nets 28-22: This may come as a news flash, but other teams are not going to just roll over and lose for the Celtics.
The Celtics let the Nets shoot 63 percent from the field in the first half, and even though they shot 50 percent themselves, Rondo nixed four possessions with turnovers. Rondo has struggled with taking care in the ball in the first half of several games in the last two weeks, even as he's racked up massive assist numbers. Double-digit assists lose their luster when they are accompanied by a half-dozen turnovers.
First quarter, 1:42, Nets 26-20: In the mirror image of Friday's game, the Celtics played offense, but no defense, early on in New Jersey.
The Celtics allowed the Nets to hit 11 of their first 16 shots, and a 3-pointer by Gerald Green gave New Jersey a nine-point advantage. Even though Pierce and Bass were off to solid shooting starts, the Celtics have been unable to stop the Nets.
First quarter, 6:13, Celtics 13-12: The late arrival did not seem to affect the Celtics' shooting, as they hit five of their first eight shots. Garnett was especially active, getting to the line twice and scoring five early points.
The Celtics were less crisp on defense, where they allowed the Nets to score 12 points in the first six minutes, with four assists on their five field goals.
6:50 p.m.: After a bit of a delay, the Celtics are apparently getting settled at the Prudential Center for Saturday's tilt against the Nets.
No major changes are expected to the lineup, other than coach Doc Rivers' stated intention not to mess with the Celtics' rhythm the way he did in Toronto.
To almost nobody's surprise, Ray Allen will miss his third straight game with the persistent soreness in his right ankle. He was sorely missed by the Celtics offense on Friday.
The probable starting lineups appear below.
8 a.m.: The Celtics' back-to-back-to-back set did not get off to such a great start, so they will try to get back on the winning track Saturday.
The New Jersey Nets were the Celtics' best friends on Friday, when the Nets beat the Sixers to help Boston stay three games ahead of Philadelphia in the Atlantic Division standings. On Saturday, the Nets (22-38) will try to hand the Celtics (34-25) consecutive losses for the third time since the All-Star break.
The Celtics need to keep winning to catch the Atlanta Hawks for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Hawks, who the Celtics would meet in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals if the playoffs began Saturday, beat Orlando on Friday to take a one-game edge in the standings.
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which tips off at 7:30 p.m.