Williams, Pierce return, lead Nets over Celtics
For Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, seeing Deron Williams back
far outweighed seeing the Celtics again.
Williams scored a season-high 25 points in his return to the
lineup, Brook Lopez added 24, and the Brooklyn Nets beat Boston
104-96 Tuesday night in the first matchup for Pierce and Garnett
against their former team.
”D-Will set the tone for how we were going to play tonight,”
Garnett had 11 points, just his third time in double figures
this season, and grabbed nine rebounds. Pierce finished with four
points and seven rebounds in his first appearance off the bench in
six years after making a quick recovery from a broken right
But the key was Williams, who had missed nine straight games and
11 overall with a sprained left ankle, and hadn’t been sharp in the
games in which he did appear.
”He’s the head of the snake,” Pierce said. ”I mean he’s one
of the most important pieces of what we’re trying to do here, what
we’re trying to build and trying to win a championship.”
The Nets won consecutive games for the first time this season, a
stunning stat for a team that considered itself a championship
contender after acquiring Pierce and Garnett in a blockbuster that
was agreed to on draft night.
Both veterans had struggled, with the 12.4 points per game and
.368 shooting by Pierce easily the lowest of his career before he
was hurt on Nov. 29. The Nets had lost six straight at home, their
longest skid since moving to Brooklyn.
”We’re starting to get whole and it’s definitely good to have
everybody back,” Williams said. ”Even though Paul didn’t start, I
thought he came in and gave us a big boost off the bench. It seemed
like our energy level was a lot better. More intensity on both ends
of the floor.”
Avery Bradley scored 22 points and Jeff Green had 19 for the
Celtics, who have been competitive after trading away two of their
most important players from their 2008 NBA championship team.
Boston had a three-game winning streak snapped and its Atlantic
Division-leading record fell to 10-13.
”The players that they had come back tonight, I still feel like
they were a very good team. But obviously having two of their
leaders as in Deron Williams and Paul, you know that definitely
helps them out a lot,” Bradley said.
The Celtics had started with 14-0 and 12-0 leads in their last
two games, the latter eventually ballooning to a 45-point bulge in
a 114-73 victory over the New York Knicks on Sunday that was the
NBA’s most lopsided game this season.
Brooklyn got off to the strong start in this one, pulled away
again after Boston tied it, and put it away when Williams, who came
in averaging just 9.3 points, scored eight in the final period.
”They played great tonight. Played really hard, really
together. They took us out of what we wanted to do,” Celtics coach
Brad Stevens said. ”Like I said, we weren’t playing the New Jersey
Nets that played without D-Will for those 10 games. That is their
team and they’re a good basketball team.”
Pierce was expected to miss two to four weeks, but sat out only
four games before returning to practice Monday. He received a nice
ovation when he checked in with a protective glove covering his
hand midway through the first quarter, no doubt aided by the many
Boston fans that were noticeable all around Barclays Center.
He said he’s still getting used to the glove, joking he might
take it out to the movies, and might have to get used to a new
role. Coach Jason Kidd said he would consider whether Pierce would
remain with the second unit.
Garnett gave a pat on the head and a little hug before the
opening tip to Boston’s starters, who go on to face former coach
Doc Rivers and the Clippers on Wednesday.
The Nets led 31-20 after one, their largest lead after the
opening quarter this season, and 56-47 at the half.
Boston quickly tied it at 60, but the Nets responded with 10
straight points, going ahead 70-60 on Williams’ jumper, and the
lead reached 85-68 on Pierce’s free throw with 1:14 left.
NOTES: It was the first time Garnett played against the Celtics
since March 4, 2007, for Minnesota. … Boxer Paulie Malignaggi was
presented with the championship of Brooklyn belt by Barclays Center
CEO Brett Yormark in the second quarter after beating fellow
Brooklyn product Zab Judah in a welterweight bout here
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