The Skinny: The Celtics scored the first four points at Barclays Center and Avery quickly called a timeout. The Nets immediately responded with an 11-2 run and took an 11-6 lead behind a dominant stretch by Deron Williams. He scored three points and had three assists over the game's next two minutes. Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett and Jeff Green scored 10 of the Celtics first 12 points, though. Although Paul Pierce was held scoreless when he exited the game after eight minutes, Rondo helped to keep the Celtics in the game early, though the Nets led, 24-22, after one.
Jerry Stackhouse scored five points for the Nets to begin the second quarter, but the team committed four early fouls, committed two turnovers and missed three shots to help the Celtics out to 32-29 lead. During the stretch, Paul Pierce scored his first basket of the game with just under nine minutes remaining in the second quarter. With a five-man unit of Jason Terry, Pierce, Green, rookie Jared Sullinger and Garnett, the Celtics defense tightened up considerably. Doc Rivers played Sullinger with Rondo, Terry, Pierce and Garnett, and they collectively outhustled the Nets. The Nets shot 7-for-16 in the second quarter and turned it over four times. The Celtics shot 13-for-22 and had 11 assists in the second quarter, helping them out to a 56-42 halftime lead.
Neither team would score in the first 3:21 of the third quarter. At that point, Rondo scored the first basket of the second half, and gave the Celtics a 58-42 lead. Lopez had a very hard time scoring in the paint after a 3-for-4 start in the first quarter. The Nets found themselves down by as many as 19 before going on a 15-2 run. Joe Johnson was the catalyst of the run and the Nets found themselves within eight. The Celtics immediately responded with a 7-0, including a Rajon Rondo three to end the quarter. The Nets trailed 73-58 after three.
In the fourth, the Nets never really challenged the Celtics. Down the stretch, Gerald Wallace got involved in a minor skirmish with Kevin Garnett that resulted in double-technicals. Sullinger was later assessed a Flagrant 1 foul against Wallace on a breakaway layup attempt, but that was the most fight the Nets showed in the final frame. In the fourth, the Nets would never get closer than 13 points. In all, the game wasn't in doubt after things broke for the Celtics late in the second quarter.
High Scorers: Rajon Rondo led the way for the Celtics with 19 points on 8-for-16 shooting, including 2-for-2 from beyond the arc. He also chipped in five rebounds and five assists. For the Nets, Brook Lopez led the way with 15 points on 5-for-12 shooting. He faded down the stretch after scoring nine points in the first quarter. He also had four turnovers.
Key Stats: Turnovers. The Nets did an abysmal job of taking care of the ball and a significant turnover differential is often hard to overcome in this league. The Celtics turned the ball over just six times through three quarters on Tuesday. They ended the game with 11 after getting sloppy in the fourth. The Nets, though, turned it over 20 times, and at mostly inopportune points during the game.
Who Was Hot: For the Nets, nobody, unfortunately. For the Celtics, it was rookie Jared Sullinger. Sullinger played a career high 33 minutes against the Nets and finished the game with a very impressive 16 points, seven rebounds, and two assists. He shot 6-for-7 from the field.
Who Was Not: Deron Williams. Today marked the first time in 10 years that the Nets played on Christmas Day and the franchise player struggled mightily. Williams ended the game shooting just 3-for-7 with 10 points and four turnovers. For the Celtics, we'd have to give Paul Pierce the same designation. Pierce shot just 3-for-10 in 30 minutes. Though he did have 10 assists, the Celtics won more so thanks to the efforts of Rondo and Sullinger.
Fun Fact: Today marked the 29th time in franchise history that the Boston Celtics have played on Christmas Day. Amazingly, 28 of those contests—including today—were played on the road. After today's victory, the Celtics are 11-17 in Christmas Day road games. The one home game they did play was a victory.
For the Nets, today's game was the first time since 2002 that they played on Christmas Day. That 2002 game was a 117-81 victory over the Boston Celtics. Paul Pierce, then a member of the Celtics, got his revenge today, it seems.
With the loss, the Nets are now just 3-9 in the month of December. There's no shame in losing to the Boston Celtics, especially when they put together a spirited effort in a nationally televised game. Still, the Nets are struggling and that they could not match the intensity of the Celtics is disconcerting.
What's worse is that once the team found itself down, it was never really able to seriously challenge. The third quarter run that closed the gap to eight points was spirited, but the Celtics scored the final seven points of the quarter, carried a 15 point lead into the final frame, and the fourth was irrelevant.
If this continues, and if the Nets fall under .500, it is very possible that Avery Johnson could find himself in hot water.