Green Christmas: Celtics rip Nets in Brooklyn, 93-76


Green Christmas: Celtics rip Nets in Brooklyn, 93-76

BROOKLYN, N.Y. The Boston Celtics got the win, and NBA charities got a little Christmas Bonus.

All left the Barclays Center feeling pretty good except for the Brooklyn Nets who suffered a 93-76 loss to the Celtics.

Rajon Rondo led all scorers with 19 points, five rebounds and five assists.

Jared Sullinger and Jeff Green had solid games off the bench for Boston with 16 and 15 points, respectively. Brooklyn was led by Brook Lopez and Gerald Wallace who each had 15 points.

With the victory, the Celtics (14-13) are now tied for second in the Atlantic Division with the Nets (14-13), losers in four of their last five games.

Not surprisingly, the game got a bit chippy and the result was a handful of players were a bit more giving this holiday season than they probably would like to be.

Four players - Boston's Kevin Garnett and Courtney Lee, along with Brooklyn's Wallace and Andray Blatche - were called for technical fouls which drop 2,000 a pop into the coffers of the NBA's various charities.

If you're Boston, putting together a win like they did on Christmas Day was priceless.

Boston made their share of mistakes all night, but the effort level and focus defensively was relatively consistent most of the game.

It was the kind of performance that the Celtics have not been able to deliver with any level of consistency this year which is why they remain a team that's hovering around .500 this season.

After a strong first half, the Celtics pushed their lead to as many as 21 points only to see it chopped down to single digits.

To the Celtics credit, they showed the kind of resiliency in the third quarter that hasn't been on display much of this season.

Boston clamped down defensively and pushed its lead back to double digits, taking a 73-58 advantage into the fourth quarter.

The Celtics spent most of the first quarter playing catch-up before a 3-pointer by Rondo - seriously - cut the Nets lead going into the second quarter to 24-22.

After a brief exchange early in the second, the Celtics took control by doing three things: Rebounding, defending and getting out in transition.

Once Boston went with that Big Three, it was all Green raining down on the Nets.

And while the Celtics have a number of proven, battle-tested veterans who can lead the charge, it was Sullinger carrying the C's in the first half.

Sullinger, who saw his first benching of sorts in a game earlier this season against the Nets (he played just 8 minutes against Brooklyn on Nov. 15), refused to allow a repeat on Tuesday.

In the first half alone, Sullinger had 10 points and six rebounds along with two assists and a blocked shot as the Celtics led by as many as 15 points before settling on a 56-42 halftime lead.

Contributions on the Celtics roster were coming from unfamiliar places, indeed.

Rajon Rondo, the league's leader in assists, had three at the half while Paul Pierce led all players with six.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn had the look of a team that was dazed and confused, trying their best to shift the Celtics momentum but only making matters worst with a slew of forced and unforced turnovers - 10 to be exact - in the first half that led to 15 points for the C's.

Horford admits he was 'very emotional' after 'special' win

Horford admits he was 'very emotional' after 'special' win

CLEVELAND – For about 30 or so seconds following Boston’s 111-108 Game 3 win over Cleveland, Al Horford was not Al Horford.

He’s a passionate player, but seldom is it on display in as outwardly a fashion as it was following their Game 3 victory.

In an interview with CSN’s Abby Chin after the game, Horford tried to put into words what the victory meant.

But the aggressive high-fives to teammates passing him by, the intense way he looked into the camera … that spoke volumes about what this game meant to the veteran big man.

“It’s big, it’s big!” Horford said in between high-fives with Jonas Jerebko and other Celtics who came past him.

“A lot of people doubting us out there!” Horford said, staring intently into the camera as if he was saying, ‘yeah, I’m talking about you!’”

Less than 24 hours after the game, Horford’s emotions had cooled down considerably.

“It was an emotional game,” he told CSN following a short practice at the Q Arena on Monday. “Just, having to hear … since the blowout, everybody counting us out. Everybody really believing that it was over.”

The Celtics came into Game 3 having lost both Games 1 and 2 at home by a combined 57 points which includes the worst playoff loss (Game 2, 130-86) in franchise history.

So with that as the backdrop, knowing full well that no one outside of their locker room gave them an ice cube in hell’s chance at winning Game 3, the victory brought about a level of satisfaction that Celtics players had seldom experienced before if at all.

“The emotions at that time were high for our group,” Horford admitted. “And it shows what we’ve been talking about all year, a resilient group that has a lot of fight in them. We were hit with some adversity with Isaiah being down but our group responded.”

Thomas re-aggravated a right hip injury in Game 2, and was later ruled out for the rest of the playoffs. 

After falling behind 77-56 in the third quarter, the Celtics closed out the third with a 26-10 run to come within 87-82 going into the fourth quarter. During the run, Marcus Smart had 11 points which turned out to be equal to LeBron James’ scoring output … for the entire game.

This is Horford's 10th NBA season, all of which have included a trip to the postseason.

That, combined with having won a pair of national championships when he played at the University of Florida, serves as a reminder that the 30-year-old has been on the winning ledger of big games before.

But even he acknowledged Sunday’s Game 3 win was … different.

“I have had plenty of moments like this,” Horford said. “But this was definitely emotional. This was very emotional, exciting, on the road, no one really giving us any chance. To be able to come through like that, it just felt great. I’ve been part of emotional wins, but this one was a special one.”

That was evident in Horford’s energy-charged, post-game comments.

“Heart! Heart! This team got heart!” he yelled. “We got beat bad (in Game 2), but it’s all about how you rebound!”

And we get that message, loud and clear!

'Ecstatic' Thomas was with Celtics teammates via FaceTime after Game 3 win

'Ecstatic' Thomas was with Celtics teammates via FaceTime after Game 3 win

CLEVELAND – Gone but definitely not forgotten.

Isaiah Thomas, out for the rest of the playoffs with a right hip injury, wasn’t in the Q Arena physically, but his presence – and his face via FaceTime – were inside the locker room in the initial moments following their 111-108 Game 3 win over Cleveland.

“We called him right after the game,” said Boston’s Avery Bradley. “He got to celebrate with us a little bit. It’s sad that he’s not here. We wish he was here with us. We just want him to get better.”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens added, “I didn’t even realize that had happened until later on. one of my first text messages was from Isaiah.  He’s hurting not being out there but he’s completely invested, for sure.”

He initially suffered the injury on March 15 at Minnesota, but re-aggravated it in the first half of Boston’s Game 2 loss to the Cavs. Less than 24 hours later, Thomas was deemed out for the remainder of the playoffs.

Instead of Thomas being the rock of sorts that the Celtics lean on with his play, he has become their rallying cry for the remainder of the playoffs.

“All we can do is play hard for him,” Bradley said. “He was excited with the way we played. We’re a family. Other guys got an opportunity to step up for us. Marcus (Smart) had a big game for us. It could be somebody else next game.”

Smart led the Celtics with a career-high 27 points which included a career-best seven 3’s going down.

And most important, the Celtics avoided going down 3-0 which would have all but sealed their fate in this series considering no team in league history has ever come back for a 3-0 series deficit.

Doing so without Thomas, the Celtics’ leading scorer and the top regular season scorer in the Eastern Conference, made the win all that more impressive for Boston.

“It meant a lot,” Horford said. “We know, Isaiah gives us so much and gave us so much this year. For him, we definitely wanted to come out and fight for him and our season and our team. It felt good to keep believing despite being down big. Just felt good to win the game and bring life back to our locker room. Because going down 3-0, that’s a death sentence pretty much. This was big.”

Not only to the Celtics players but also to Thomas who also texted head coach Brad Stevens full of excitement following Boston’s surprising win.

“He was excited,” Horford recalled. “He was ecstatic. I know he wishes he was here being part of it. We just need to keep doing it for him and our group and doing the best we can.”