Pierce's Nets sneak past Celtics, 82-80

Pierce's Nets sneak past Celtics, 82-80
October 15, 2013, 10:15 pm
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BROOKLYN, N.Y. — There were smiles and a few hugs to pass around as Paul Pierce faced his former Boston Celtics teammates for the first time since being traded.

But the emotional, boo-hoo moment that many anticipated was not meant for this night, not with so little on the line.

Look for the Pierce floodgates of emotions to start pouring down at some point moments before he takes the floor on Jan. 26 which will be his first regular season at the TD Garden for him in a uniform Celtics emblazoned on the front.

Although he played limited minutes in Tuesday's preseason game, Pierce did enough to show that the only significant change to his game is the zip code.

"I'm still trying to find my niche," Pierce said moments after Brooklyn's 82-80 win.

Brooklyn's Chris Johnson made a pair of free throws with seven seconds to put the Nets back ahead for good.

After a Celtics time-out, Courtney Lee had a chance to tie the game but his mid-range jumper grazed the rim before rolling out into the hands of a Nets player.

While the game certainly provided some unexpected drama for a preseason game in the closing seconds, most of the attention throughout the night was paid to the former Celtic.

The C's No. 2 all-time scorer had just four points on Tuesday, but grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds to go with five assists in 27 minutes.

Celtics players have tried to keep the Pierce departure, along with Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry, from being a distraction.

Instead the focus has been on improving from one game to the next in hopes of being ready for the regular season.

One of those looking to play better is Jeff Green who has been in a slump throughout the preseason.

He got off to a good start with four points in four minutes, but unfortunately he was the bulk of Boston's offense as Brooklyn opened with an 18-8 run.

Green had 12 points for the night but grabbed just two rebounds.

Boston's bench played well with three players - Kelly Olynyk (10 points), Kris Humphries (12 points, eight rebounds) and Lee (14 points) - each reaching double figures scoring.

But even with their strong play and Garnett (rest) not playing for the Nets, Brooklyn's superior depth and talent seemed to overwhelm the Celtics at just about every position.

But the Celtics managed to keep the game close, even as Brooklyn continued mix and match its lineups with seldom-used players and starters.

However, the one concern that has been the elephant in the room for the Celtics, their lack of size in the frontcourt, continued to plague them throughout Tuesday's game.

Not only did the Nets have more big bodies, but the ones they have are pretty good.

Brook Lopez is an all-star and is one of the best centers in the NBA, joined by fellow all-stars Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and of course, Pierce.

Whatever this Celtics team lacks in talent, they appear poised to try and compensate for that with a more consistent effort to compete.

As much as wins and losses matter, developing a competitive foundation will be instrumental in this team's growth this season.

And it is performances like Tuesday night's that will serve as what has to be happen on a consistent basis, even if it was against a Brooklyn team that wasn't playing at full strength.