Celtics top Nets for 3rd straight, move above .500
BOSTON—The Boston Celtics found their way to the right side of a rout for the first time in more than a month.
Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo both had double-doubles and Paul Pierce came close to joining them as the Celtics beat the New Jersey Nets 107-94 on Friday night.
"We're athletic all of a sudden," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "The defense is good. We're rebounding and we're running. And that's good."
Garnett had 20 points and 10 rebounds, Rondo finished with 14 points and 13 assists, and Pierce added eight assists to go with his team-high 27 points as the Celtics won by more than 10 for the first time since beating Toronto 100-64 on Feb. 1.
Boston had been on the wrong end of several blowouts since, including three in a row during a five-game slide into the All-Star break. The Celtics have returned with three straight wins and the latest was hardly ever in doubt. The Celtics held a 26-point lead in the second half before New Jersey's reserves got the score slightly closer to respectable in the fourth quarter.
By then Pierce, Rondo and Garnett, who had his second straight double-double and third in four games, were enjoying a nice, relaxing view from the bench.
"We were mentally kind of worn down going into the break those last couple of weeks. Playing so many games and having so many inconsistencies," Pierce said. "It just gave us a chance to go into the break, refresh ourselves, and come back with a positive outlook on the second half. And it's showing out there on the court."
The Celtics were playing without Ray Allen, who was sick Friday night, but still controlled nearly the entire game and had five players score in double figures. Boston also had assists on 35 of its 45 field goals and topped 100 points for the third time in four games.
Boston also shut down All-Star point guard Deron Williams, who scored 10 points in the first quarter and just two the rest of the way. Williams also had eight assists, but could never get New Jersey's offense in synch.
New Jersey is still trying to recover from an eight-game losing streak last month. The Nets had gone 3-2 since the skid, including a 93-92 road win over the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday, but slipped back to their old form on Friday night.
"We've had a history of having a really good win and then following it up with a very bad loss," Williams said. "We're very inconsistent as a team right now."
Brook Lopez had 28 points and MarShon Brooks, Anthony Morrow and Gerald Green scored 11 apiece for New Jersey.
The Celtics shot 50 percent in the first half, taking a 58-40 lead into the break after committing just two turnovers. Boston controlled the lane, outscoring New Jersey 32-18 inside and running for 14 fast-break points while holding the Nets to none.
"This is a veteran team," New Jersey coach Avery Johnson said. "Garnett looked like he was 21-years-old tonight."
Mickael Pietrus scored 11 and reserve Chris Wilcox had 14 points and seven rebounds while playing 27 minutes, 41 seconds -- the longest night for any Boston player. Most of his teammates were enjoying a rest at the end after shutting down a brief rally by the Nets.
The Nets continued to unravel in the third quarter, as Garnett scored eight early in the period, then Pierce converted a three-point play to put the Celtics up 73-49 with 6:27 left in the period. New Jersey was playing a man down because Lopez was still at the other end complaining his shot that was blocked by Brandon Bass should have been called goaltending.
There was no whistle and Rondo found Pierce under the basket for an easy layup as DeShawn Stevenson committed the foul.
The Celtics' lead grew to 26 before the Nets rallied to make it a little interesting near the end of the third with a 15-4 run. Green scored on three straight dunks, including a towering alley-oop from Brooks, during the surge, but the Nets still couldn't get closer than 14.
Garnett opened the fourth with a long jumper for the Celtics, who didn't allow the Nets to threaten again.
After the game, Rivers repeated an earlier comment he made about not expecting any big moves before the trade deadline -- despite the near-constant chatter that Rondo doesn't get along with the coach and is the player most likely to leave Boston in a deal.
"I think there'll be a lot of talk about something happening and I just hope we have the strength to block it out," Rivers said.
Notes: Pierce missed the final minutes of the second quarter, heading to the locker room to be treated for cramps. He was back on the floor for the start of the third quarter. ... The Nets committed 20 turnovers while losing their fourth straight in Boston. ... Lopez scored eight of his 28 points from the foul line, where he went 8-for-10.