The pregame hoopla may have focused on Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce‘s first game against their former team, but Brook Lopez and Deron Williams stole the show on the court in Brooklyn’s 104-96 victory against the Celtics.
Williams (25 points) and Lopez (24 points) helped the Nets end the C’s three-game win streak and crawl within two games of Boston’s Atlantic Division lead. Garnett and Pierce combined for 15 points, 16 rebounds and six assists.
All five Celtics starters scored in double figures, led by Bradley’s 22 points. Brandon Bass (13 points, 11 rebounds) notched his first double-double of the season. Jeff Green added 19 points and six boards while Jared Sullinger and Jordan Crawford added 15 apiece. The Celtics fell to 10-13.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Babbling Brook: The Celtics had no answer for Lopez. The undersized frontcourt of Sullinger and Bass was no match for the 7-foot, 275-pound Lopez, who scored 22 points on 10-of-12 shooting through the first three quarters, when the Nets owned a 46-24 advantage in the paint and an 85-72 edge on the scoreboard. The Celtics made it a game in the final minutes, but couldn’t overcome a Nets lead as large as 17.
El Hombre Destructible: Celtics coach Brad Stevens attempted to counter Lopez with Vitor Faverani, but the Brazilian 7-footer finished minus-12 in four minutes with two personal fouls and zeroes across the stat sheet. In his last five games, Faverani is averaging 2.8 points and 1.5 rebounds. While Kelly Olynyk‘s return may help the front line, the C’s still won’t have a defender capable of matching up with a true center.
Bench press: Pierce came off the bench for just the fourth time in his career, anchoring a Brooklyn second unit that dominated their Celtics counterparts. While Pierce scored in the single digits, he added seven rebounds and three assists to give the Nets reserves a total of 22 points, 20 rebounds and six assists. Faverani, Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries all struggled, as the Celtics bench totaled just 12 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Second helping: Often matched up with Williams, who missed the previous nine games with an ankle injury, Bradley torched the Nets point guard in the second quarter, scoring 12 of his 15 first-half points to help the Celtics remain within nine, 56-47, at halftime. Bradley has now reached double-digit scoring in 15 games, a number he didn’t reach until mid-March last season.
Triple threat: The Celtics made eight of their first 14 3-point attempts, including their first three tries of the third quarter to tie the game at 60-60. Bradley started 3-of-5, Green made his first two and Sullinger connected on his first two tries after halftime, as the C’s erased a 13-point first-half deficit 2:22 into the third quarter.
Old friends: As far as the reunion goes, this hug between Garnett and Rajon Rondo during a timeout said it all. This wasn’t exactly the cold shoulder routine KG gave Ray Allen last season.