Nets finish strong, top Celtics, 102-97
NEW YORK -- Deron Williams and Brook Lopez each had 24 points and the Nets were winners in their first nationally-televised game of the Brooklyn era, beating the Boston Celtics, 102-97, at Barclays Center on Thursday night.
The starting five did the majority of the damage for Brooklyn, as Lopez and Williams led four starters in double figures. Joe Johnson had 19 points and eight rebounds and Kris Humphries chipped in with 10 points and 13 boards.
Lopez also added six rebounds and four blocks while Williams dished out a team-high eight assists.
Brooklyn (5-2) got off to a fast start, breaking out to a 17-6 lead in the first five minutes behind hot 3-point shooting.
But the Celtics battled back every time the Nets went on a run. Boston took its first lead of the game with four minutes remaining in the third quarter.
The Nets, who blew a 22-point home lead to the Timberwolves 10 days ago, hung tough, and after Jerry Stackhouse buried a game-tying three-pointer -- his only bucket of the game -- with 6:20 remaining, Johnson hit back-to-back buckets to give Brooklyn a 91-87 lead with 2:26 to go.
"It means a lot (to make that comeback); I thought Brook and Joe were really great down the stretch, Reggie Evans played great defense, Deron quarterbacking the team…it was fun to watch," coach Avery Johnson said after the game. "And I thought it showed some mental toughness."
Boston would cut the lead to one in the final minute, and Avery Johnson chose to play a foul-for-foul game with the Celtics in the waning seconds. He attributed his decision to a strategic change made after Paul Pierce made it a two-point game with 24 seconds left.
"Did you see Pierce hit that pull-up three?" Johnson asked at his post-game press conference. "I had it in my mind that he was probably going to do it again, and they were out of timeouts, so I played the foul game. We didn’t do a good job of guarding Pierce at the 3-point line, and he doesn’t need much space, so I thought fouling was the best strategy; sometimes it works."
In the end, it worked, as the Nets went 9-for-10 from the free-throw line in the final 60 seconds. The Celtics, who missed just one in the first 47 minutes, were only 2-for-6 -- with Pierce missing a key pair just prior to his big 3-pointer.
"Deron and Joe hitting those foul shots were critical, especially when you’re playing that foul game," coach Johnson said. "To be able to win a close game like that, especially without Gerald Wallace, it really means a lot to us."
For the Nets reserves, Andray Blatche led the "Bench Mob" with seven points and five rebounds, and Reggie Evans chipped in with nine rebounds. MarShon Brooks, who was active after missing the previous three games with a sprained ankle, played five minutes and scored two points.
Boston (5-4) had five players reach double figures. Pierce dropped a team-high 22 and collected seven rebounds. Leandro Barbosa, who started in place of the injured Rajon Rondo, had 17 points and two assists, and Courtney Lee added 13 points, a team-high nine rebounds and three assists off the bench.
With the win, the Nets snapped a three-game losing streak to the Celtics, and also gave themselves their first four-game winning streak since March 4-14, 2011. They’ll go for five on Sunday when they open up a three-game West Coast trip against the Sacramento Kings.
Avery Johnson hopes to keep the momentum going off what he called a "breakthrough" win.
"I think it’s going to be really significant if we have a good road trip. This is one of the biggest games we’ve had in the two-plus years I’ve been here," he said. "We’re not a finished product, but we won this game, we have a tough trip coming up, and we have to try to get off to a good start on Sunday."