BOSTON - Doc Rivers had his concerns about Wednesdays game against the New Jersey Nets.
It wasnt because the Boston Celtics were hampered by injuries or the fact that the Nets pulled off an upset last season at the TD Garden.
Rather it was because it was February 16 - their final contest before the All-Star Break.
I always call this the one individual game of the year, because its the game before All-Star Break and both teams have just too much stuff, he said prior to the game. The Nets probably have plans, guys are leaving out tonight or tomorrow, and our guys are doing the same thing so its a single-game focus. Im more concerned about that.
The Celtics' 94-80 victory wasnt pretty but it wasnt expected to be, given the circumstances. Paul Pierce led all players with 31 points and Kevin Garnett recorded a double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds). Brook Lopez led the Nets with 18 points.
Listen, every games not going to be beautiful, said Rivers following the win. You would love to blow every team out - thats not going to happen. Its the NBA. We just want to win the game.
The Celtics starters kicked off the game like they were ready to quickly wrap up a win. Pierce, who scored just one point against the Miami Heat on Sunday, recorded 10 points in the first 11 minutes. The Celtics led by 15 with 2:29 to go before the Nets began to fight back. They went on a 10-2 run in the final two minutes to trail, 27-22, at the end of the first quarter.
The first quarter we came out very explosive, said Kevin Garnett. You could tell right away that we were trying to get this game out of the way.
After a poor shooting performance by the Celtics in the second quarter (37.5 FG), they were outscored 24-19. Brook Lopez, who made just one basket in the first quarter, finished the half with 10 points. The Nets tied the game, 46-46, at halftime.
The offensive woes continued for the Celtics in the third quarter as they shot 7-for-21 from the field. While they tied the game up three times, they failed to connect on go-ahead baskets and found themselves tied, 70-70, heading into the fourth quarter.
With their shots inconsistent, the Celtics turned to their foundation - defense.
I was upset at halftime because I thought our starters came out with unbelievable spirit to start the game, and then our second unit - and it happens - our second unit watched how much we were scoring and they forgot that the reason we were scoring was because we were playing such great defense, said Rivers.
The entire team was on the same page to finish up the game. Even with Pierce and Rajon Rondo playing less than five minutes in the fourth quarter, the Celtics held the Nets to only three field goals.
The Cs, on the other hand, began knocking down three-pointers and getting to the line - 10 of their 24 points in the final 12 minutes came from free throws. The Celtics outscored the Nets by 14 in the final quarter for their 40th win of the season.
They improved to 25-5 at home, passing last season's win total at the TD Garden.
We realized how close the game was and we needed to get it done, said Glen Davis. We cant play like that. Being the last game of the first half of the season, we needed to leave a better impression on what we have to do, because this next half, we need to go. We cant slip up in game we need to win. We need to win them.
The Celtics next game is February 22 against the Golden State Warriors in California.
Jessica Camerato is on Twitter athttp:twitter.comjcameratoNBA