|Fast Break: Paul Pierce, Celtics take down Nets||02.16.11 at 10:10 pm ET|
In a game that was a lot closer than the final score indicated, the Celtics survived a scare from the Nets in their final game before the All-Star break Wednesday, capturing a 94-80 home victory. The win helped the C’s (40-14) keep first place in the Eastern Conference ahead of the Heat (41-15).
Paul Pierce finished with a game-high 31 points, and Kevin Garnett recorded his 17th double-double of the season (14 points, 10 rebounds). Brook Lopez led the Nets (17-40) with 18 points.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
At least they got the win: The Celtics didn’t play well against the Nets by any stretch of the imagination, but they earned home win No. 25 in just their 29th game at the Garden this season. The C’s were 24-17 all of last year at home, and games like they played on Wednesday night usually ended up in the loss column. If you’ll recall, the C’s lost to an even worse Nets team by eight on Feb. 27, 2010.
Paul Pierce started off on the right foot: Before most fans finished their first beer, the Celtics started on an 8-0 run and stretched that lead to 25-10. Through the first 9:50, Pierce played the Nets to a standstill at 10 points apiece — squashing any doubts about his lingering foot problem. He finished with 31 points on 10-of-18 shooting, attacking the basket with no signs of an injury.
Praise be to Gody: In desperate need of contributions from big bodies off the bench, Luke Harangody gave the Celtics just what Doc Rivers ordered. The rookie out of Notre Dame scored eight points in just eight minutes off the bench in the first half. While he didn’t score for the remainder of the night, the gave the C’s 15 productive minutes.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Falling asleep at the wheel: After the start the Celtics enjoyed, there’s just no way it should’ve been a tie game at halftime. But it was, 46-46, thanks to Rivers’ understandable reliance on the bench for 35 combined minutes. The offensive efficiency that the Celtics have demonstrated for much of this season just wasn’t there for a long stretch from late in the first quarter until the break. Rajon Rondo‘s presence almost assures the C’s of leading their opponents (especially the Nets) in assists, but New Jersey won that battle, 19-18. That’s what Rivers often refers to as “hero ball,” and it gets them in trouble against the better teams in the league.
No immediate halftime adjustment: As well as the Celtics played in the opening few minutes of the game, they played equally as bad to start the second half, allowing the Nets to go on an 8-0 run of their own and take a 54-46 lead before many fans had taken their seats again. That translated into more taxing minutes for the C’s as they played from behind well into the third quarter.
Nothing but three Nets: Really, only a few guys gave the Celtics problems on Wednesday night: Lopez as well as guards Devin Harris and Anthony Morrow. The three combined for 48 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists. And Lopez’s ability to score in the post forced Rivers and assistant coach Lawrence Frank to furiously figure out a way to stop him in the third quarter. As a result, New Jersey also won the battle in the paint, 34-28.
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