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Fast Break: Rajon Rondo, Celtics freeze Paul Pierce, Nets

03.07.14 at 9:55 pm ET
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There wasn’t nearly as much fanfare surrounding this Paul Pierce return to Boston, but the Celtics ended up on the winning side this time around, defeating Pierce’s Nets by a score of 91-84.

Rajon Rondo led all scorers with 20 points, adding nine assists and seven rebounds, and the Celtics (21-41) recovered from Wednesday’s miserable loss to the Warriors to snap a two-game losing streak. Jeff Green (15 points), Kelly Olynyk (13 points) and Jerryd Bayless (14 points) also reached double figures.

The Nets (30-30) fell back to .500, as Pierce finished with 10 points.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Moto Rondo: Perhaps motivated by the presence of rival Deron Williams and old friend Paul Pierce in town, Rondo came to play. He connected on his first three 3-point attempts, setting a new personal standard for a season, and scored 13 first-quarter attempts. The triple-double watch began early, and the C’s led 26-20 after one.

Technical KO: After scoring a team-high 19 points against the Warriors (somebody had to), Olynyk said he felt like he was figuring out opposing NBA defenses — how different players defend the pick-and-roll, drive-and-kick, etc. — and it showed again Friday. Scoring from 3-point range, on the drive and in the post, he abused Mason Plumlee early, even if Plumlee isn’t exactly Kevin Garnett. Now, Olynyk only needs to figure out his own NBA defense, but he showed grit, slapping the ball out of Shaun Livingston‘s hands as he attempted a few post-whistle layups. Had he made the trip, Garnett would’ve respected that. If only he were in Boston to tutor Olynyk on that end.

3 party: In addition to Rondo’s trio of 3-pointers, undrafted rookie Chris Babb drained a couple and the Celtics connected six of their 13 attempts from long-distance before the break. (Like Chris Johnson before him, Babb is earning well deserved playing time purely on effort.) But the bigger story was Brooklyn’s futility from beyond the arc. The Nets missed all 17 of their first-half attempts and naturally trailed 53-41 heading into the locker room.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Ja-red alert: Doesn’t it seem like Jared Sullinger should be starting for these Celtics? After all, he’s arguably the second-best player on the roster. But he’s coming off the bench, and maybe it’s time to start wondering why. Whether it’s his hand, conditioning or another factor, Sullinger doesn’t look like the same player who averaged 19.8 points and 12.8 rebounds from Jan. 29 to Feb. 10. Sullinger fouled out with five points and 12 rebounds.

Big Apple turnovers: Considering the Nets shot 34 percent in the first half, it’s a wonder they only trailed by a dozen at the break. But they managed to hang around all night by winning the turnover battle. Olynyk and Rondo were the worst offenders for the Celtics.

Turd quarter: After winning the first two frames by six apiece and stretching the lead to 18 early in the third, the Celtics fell apart. With a lineup of Marcus Thornton, Shaun Livingston, Joe Johnson, Anrdrei Kirilenko and Andray Blatche on the floor, the Nets rattled off a 22-6 run to slash the C’s advantage to 70-68 with 14 minutes left.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, NBA, Rajon Rondo
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