Playing without Rajon Rondo due to the point guard's sprained right ankle, the Celtics mounted a furious comeback but couldn't close the deal Thursday night in Brooklyn, falling to the Nets, 102-97, at Barclays Center.
The Celtics trailed by as many as 13 but used a 20-2 run in the third quarter to make it a back-and-forth affair heading into the final minutes. Paul Pierce, who missed two key free throws with under a minute remaining, closed the gap to two points by knocking down a 3-pointer with 24 seconds left. But Deron Williams -- who was fouled on a controversial call on what appeared to be a clean steal by Leandro Barbosa -- came back to boost the hosts' lead to four points with a pair of free throws.
After two free throws from Pierce with 19 seconds cut the deficit back to a pair, Williams countered with two more freebies for Brooklyn. Jason Terry proceeded to miss his two free throws with 11 ticks remaining, putting the game out of reach.
The loss snaps a three-game winning streak for the Celtics, who had won five of their previous six games. For the Nets, it was their fourth straight win and just third win against the Celts in the teams' last 21 meetings. The Nets had lost all three meetings between the teams last season by an average of 14.7 points.
Starting for Rondo, Barbosa finished with 17 points and two assists. Pierce led the Celtics with 22 points, while Courtney Lee netted 13 while coming off the bench. It marked the first time this season the C's have lost when holding their opponents to under 46 percent shooting from the floor, with Brooklyn shooting 42 percent.
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