BOSTON The Boston Celtics continued on their winning ways with a 10794 win over New Jersey, a game that was much more lopsided than the final score might indicate. A big reason for the victory was Boston's full court pressure defense, which gave the Nets major problems in the second quarter.
For the game, New Jersey turned the ball over 20 times seven of those miscues came in the second quarter. "We weren't able to cover from there," said Nets coach Avery Johnson.
One of the key players to Boston's pressure defense was Mickael Pietrus, who got the start in place of Ray Allen, who was under the weather.
Pietrus had 11 points, five rebounds and a steal, although his pressure, along with Rajon Rondo, played a role in the C's getting steals on 10 of the 20 turnovers they forced.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers knew Pietrus was a good defender, but acknowledged that "he's better than I thought; his energy is better," Rivers said.
There were a handful of factors we previewed before tonight's game. Here's how they played out as the C's won their third straight to move above-.500 for the season.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR One of the big reasons for New Jersey's struggles this year has been because they have played most of the year without their big man, Brooke Lopez. The 7-foot center, out with a broken foot, has steadily improved in the three games since returning to the Nets lineup. His scoring and rebounding have both increased from one game to the next. He comes into tonight's game coming off a 38-point effort in New Jersey's 93-92 win at Dallas. Kevin Garnett has done a good job at the center position for Boston, but Lopez presents a much greater challenge because of his ability to score around the basket something most of the centers Garnett has matched up with lately can't do nearly as well as Lopez.
WHAT WE SAW Lopez was indeed a load for Kevin Garnett and company, as he tallied a game-high 28 points. But his scoring had very little impact on the game's outcome. In fact it's what Lopez didn't do rebound that continues to be the biggest knock on him. In New Jersey's 9392 win at Dallas, he had 38 points and just six rebounds. Against the C's, he only tallied five rebounds.
MATCHUP TO WATCH Rajon Rondo vs Deron Williams: It's a team game, but there's no way of ignoring the fact that two of the NBA's elite point guards will square off against one another. As much as the C's need Rondo to facilitate the offense and occasionally get a basket, they'll need him to step his game up defensively tonight. In Williams, Rondo's facing arguably the most complete point guard in the NBA. Williams has size (6-3, 209), speed, court vision and a better-than-average perimeter game. Whichever of these two that plays better, will go far in determining tonight's winner.
WHAT WE SAW This was a closely contested matchup, but the edge and the win have to both go to Rondo. He had his seventh double-double of the season with 14 points and 13 assists along with a game-high five steals. As for Williams, he had a decent night of 12 points and eight assists, although the 12 points scored is about 10 below his season average.
PLAYER TO WATCH Former Celtic Gerald Green is back in the NBA following an MVP effort in the D-League All-Star Game during All-Star Weekend. In his first game with the New Jersey Nets, Green came off the bench to score 10 points. It was his first NBA game since April 8, 2009, when he played with the Dallas Mavericks. The former slam dunk champion spent his first two NBA seasons with the Celtics after they selected him with the 18th overall pick in the 2005 NBA draft.
WHAT WE SAW You knew at some point, Green would wow the crowd with an impressive dunk. After all, that's kind of what slam dunk champions, past and present, do. But it's clear that Green's game has matured from his days with the Boston Celtics. He had 11 points off the Nets' bench on 5-for-10-shooting.
STAT TO TRACK Defending the 3-point shot will be vital for Boston to win tonight. Despite their struggles this year, the Nets rank second in the NBA in 3-pointers made (8.8) and 3-pointers taken (24.8). Meanwhile, the C's have been among the league's leaders in their defense of the 3-ball. Boston ranks second in opponent 3-pointers made per game (4.8), and are fourth in opponent 3-pointers attempted (16) per game.
WHAT WE SAW This was yet another area in which Boston's play was superior. The C's limited the Nets to 19 3's taken, and only five were made.