Celtics lose to Nets as third-stringers blow lead in final minutes

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Celtics lose to Nets as third-stringers blow lead in final minutes

BOSTON Every now and then, Paul Pierce reminds us all why he's considered a professional scorer.

It took him just 12 minutes to drop 20 points on the Brooklyn Nets.

Even with a big scoring game from Pierce and the Nets playing without their big Three - Deron Williams, Gerald Wallace and Joe Johnson - the C's still couldn't put Brooklyn away as the Nets rallied in the closing minutes for a 97-96 win.

Brooklyn closed out the game by scoring seven of the game's last eight points for the win as the C's had their core guys on the bench while most of their end-of-the-bench players saw some mop-up duty.

Boston (1-4) had multiple chances to squeak out a victory in a game that they controlled for most of the night, but continued to come up short.

With 27 seconds to play, the C's had the ball and trailed 96-95.

Following a time-out, Jason Collins was fouled with 23.8 seconds to play.

Collins made the first free throw, but missed the second which was rebounded by the Nets with 22.9 seconds to play and the score tied at 96.

Brooklyn's Stephen Dennis was fouled going to the basket with five seconds to play.

He missed both free throws, but Nets big man Mirza Teletovic grabbed the rebounded and was immediately fouled by Rob Kurz.

Teletovic made the first of two free throws as the C's grabbed the loose ball and called a time-out with 3.6 seconds to play.

Following the time-out, Courtney Lee's lob attempt to Micah Downs failed as the ball sailed out of bounds with 1.3 seconds to play.

The C's had one last shot to steal back the game, but Kris Joseph's desperation heave was well off the mark as time expired.

Boston opened the with a 9-2 run, but soon saw their lead - and control of the game - swing in Brooklyn's favor as the Nets outscored them 23-12 to end the first with a 25-21 lead.

The second quarter was one in which the C's played from behind most of the quarter, but a barrage of jumpers by Paul Pierce brought the Celtics back and eventually propelled them to a 49-47 lead at the half.

Pierce's hot hand didn't cool off in the third quarter as Boston pushed its lead to double digits before settling on an 83-74 lead going into the fourth quarter.

He led all scorers with 29 points that came in just 27 minutes of action.

In addition to Pierce, Boston also got a nice scoring lift from Courtney Lee who has had his problems shooting the ball throughout the preseason. He finished with 13 points, five of which came in the third.

Orchestrating all this hot shooting for the C's was Rajon Rondo, who was having a very Rondo-like night in putting up numbers in several categories. Although he scored just five points, he also grabbed five rebounds and dished out a game-high 11 assists.

Boston's strong play in the third came with head coach Doc Rivers back in the locker room where he was presumably watching the game on TV, or he may have done a little channel surfing and checked out the second presidential debate.

Regardless, the Celtics once again showcased how diverse they can be with their lineup.

But with Kevin Garnett back on the floor (Rivers gave him the night off on Monday because of Boston's back-to-back games), the Celtics had an edge about them that only Garnett and his presence can provide.

So when you take strong play defensively and add Pierce knocking down open and contested shots, the Celtics are a tough team to beat - preseason or not.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Raptors

WATCH: Celtics vs. Raptors

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Celtics-Raptors preview: DeRozan, Lowry a challenge for Bradley, C's

Celtics-Raptors preview: DeRozan, Lowry a challenge for Bradley, C's

BOSTON – Avery Bradley doesn’t mind being a standout, but this is probably not what he had in mind. 

Injuries have ravaged the Boston Celtics’ starting five to the point where only one player, Bradley, has been with the first unit in all 22 games this season. 

Just like Bradley was looked upon to step his game up in the absence of Isaiah Thomas (right groin) at Orlando on Wednesday, he will once again be challenged to lead Boston (13-9) to victory tonight when the Thomas-less Celtics face the Toronto Raptors. 

Bradley’s emergence as a two-way talent this season has overshadowed at times what has been another season of elite play defensively. 

And he’ll need to be on top of his defensive game tonight against a Raptors All-Star backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. 

Both Lowry and DeRozan present a different kind of challenge for Bradley who will spend time defending each of them at various points during the game. 

Lowry has good size, strength and deceptive quickness in addition to an under-rated perimeter game that will keep Bradley on his toes for sure. 

This season he's averaging 20.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and a career-high 7.6 assists while shooting 42.9 percent on 3's which is also a career mark. 

And DeRozan is having the kind of season that might get him a few league MVP votes. 

His 28.0 points per game ranks fifth in the NBA, but making his numbers even more impressive is that unlike most guards DeRozan doesn’t generate much offense from three-pointers.

DeRozan averages 1.8 three-point attempts per game which is the fewest attempts among any player ranked among the league’s top-25 scorers.

The 6-foot-7 All-Star is the master of the mid-range game which accounts for 31.5 percent of the points he scores. And when he’s not shooting the mid-range, he’s working a defender in one-on-one iso-situations. 

That helps explain why 76.4 percent of his two-point made field goals are unassisted. 

But here’s the thing about Bradley. 

As much as we give him props for what he does defensively, it’s his offense that has put him on the map as a potential All-Star this season. 

Bradley is averaging a career-high 17.9 points while shooting 47.2 percent from the field. He’s also averaging a career-high 7.8 rebounds per game in addition to shooting a career-high 40.7 percent on 3's.

But for Bradley, individual accolades are only going to come his way by the Celtics winning games; preferably against above-average teams like the Toronto Raptors.

And that would make both Bradley and the Celtics stand out this season.