From Comcast SportsNetBOSTON (AP) -- Doc Rivers wants the Boston Celtics to be tough -- not violent.The message came too late for Rajon Rondo.The Celtics point guard was ejected from Wednesday night's game against the Nets when he retaliated for a hard foul against Kevin Garnett by shoving Brooklyn forward Kris Humphries into the courtside seats. Rondo, Humphries and Nets forward Gerald Wallace were ejected, and Brooklyn held on to win 95-83."All that stuff, that's not toughness," Rivers told reporters, calling his team soft. "That foul was a hard foul. It was an unnecessary foul. The play was over and then he pushed him down in the air. But I think that's what they think of us: They think they can push you around."Joe Johnson scored 18 points and Andray Blatche had 17 points and 13 rebounds as the Nets opened up a 21-point, first-half lead and took advantage of the loss of the Celtics' All-Star to win for the ninth time in 11 games.Garnett had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Paul Pierce added 14 points for Boston. Rondo had three assists before he was kicked out, ending his streak at 37 games with double-digits -- tied for second-longest in NBA history.The Nets led by eight after one quarter and scored 19 of the first 25 points in the second to make it 47-26. Boston cut the deficit to 14 points and trailed by 16 when Garnett took an off-balance jumper from the right baseline and Humphries leveraged him to the floor with his left arm.Rondo trailed the play with a two-handed shove that sent Humphries into the courtside seats."Kevin could have gotten hurt. He's in the air. He took a bad fall. And so Rondo saw that and probably reacted, and over-reacted, obviously," Rivers said. "I can't get in anybody's head. But at that point we're getting our tails kicked and we're probably frustrated."Wallace soon entered the fray by shoving Garnett. Nets point guard Deron Williams said Humphries, who did not speak to reporters after the game, had scratches on his head and neck.After the game, Humphries posted a picture of his scratched left shoulder with the comment: "Anyone know where I can quick get a Tetnis shot in Boston?"While the rest of the players remained by their benches, coaches and officials tried to break up the skirmish."I think guys just try to defend themselves," Nets coach Avery Johnson said. "I think the league should really take that into account. Because I don't know if guys can just walk away all the time. They've got to kind of protect themselves."The referees went to the scorer's table to watch the incident on replay, and their verdict was announced over the public address system: Two technical fouls for Humphries, one for Wallace -- his second of the game, ending his night -- and one for Garnett.Rondo was simply ejected."Rondo initiated everything that proceeded after the foul," crew chief James Capers said in a pool report provided to reporters. "And when he and Humphries go into the stands, they are involved in a fight. Fighting is an automatic ejection."Rondo left the Celtics locker room before it was opened to reporters, and was unavailable for comment."We all back each other," Garnett said. "We take a lot of pride in putting on this jersey. I know I do. This ain't the Girl Scouts or the Boy Scouts. That's what it is. It's the NBA. You've got to get used to it."When the free throws were done, Boston trailed 51-38, and the Celtics never got closer than nine points after that.Rondo has had a history of petulance, including a one-game suspension during the opening round of last year's playoff series against Atlanta after he chest-bumped referee Marc Davis while complaining about a call in the final minute of a Boston loss.During the 2011-12 regular season, he was suspended for two games for throwing a ball at an official."Usually he goes after the refs," Rivers said. "This was another guy, so this was better."He has also come under criticism for selfishness this season for re-entering a 20-point loss to Detroit in the fourth quarter to keep his streak alive.Notes: Rondo's streak of 10 or more assists dated to March 11 of last season. That ties John Stockton for second-longest in NBA history. Magic Johnson holds the record at 46 consecutive games in the 1983-84 season. ... U.S. Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman was in attendance. ... Rivers said Johnson is one of his best friends. The two had dinner together on Tuesday night. ... Garnett tied John Havlicek for 18th on the NBA career list with 1,270 games played. ... Pierce passed Bob Pettit for 13th on the NBA's all-time list for free throws made with 6,183. ... Celtics F Jeff Green sprained his right knee in the second half but was able to return. Boston F Chris Wilcox left the game due to illness. ... The teams next meet on Christmas Day in Brooklyn. ... The Nets were playing their third game in four days.
SAN ANTONIO -- The Cavaliers acknowledged having heavy legs, yet there is something far weightier on the minds of the defending NBA champions.
Cleveland is in the midst of one of its worst stretches this season and there is little time to fix it.
Kawhi Leonard scored 25 points and the San Antonio Spurs dismantled the ailing Cavs 103-74 on Monday night in a much-anticipated showdown that turned into a major letdown for Cleveland.
"The way we've been struggling, (the Spurs are) the last team that you want to play," said LeBron James, who was fine after taking an elbow to the neck. "A well-oiled machine like this, they exploit everything that you're not doing well at that point in time of the season and right now we're not playing good basketball."
James, who finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in 29 minutes, said he will play Thursday at Chicago.
Cleveland (47-26) dropped its second in a row, set a season low for points and fell a half-game behind Boston (48-26) for the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Cavaliers have nine games remaining, all against teams in the East, including a visit to Boston on April 5.
James said the standings "always matter," but playing more consistently is far more important and he refused to blame injuries or an arduous schedule for the team's troubles.
"It matters more that we're playing better basketball than where we're at," he said. "If that results in us having the No. 1 seed, the No. 2 seed, 3 or whatever the hell it is, we need to play better basketball. That's what it comes down to."
What Cleveland is seeking, the Spurs have already found.
San Antonio (57-16) is two games behind Golden State (59-14) for the league's best record entering a home game against the Warriors on Wednesday.
The Spurs have won five straight and 8 of 10 after sweeping the season series with the Cavaliers.
"It was a big game, but in the end, it's just one game, and one win," San Antonio guard Tony Parker said. "We're trying to be consistent. We're trying to play the same way every game. It was definitely surprising. Coming off a loss, I thought they would play with a lot more energy, but it can happen. It's a long season. It's just one game and I'm sure they're going to bounce back and use this game as motivation."
San Antonio led by as many as 33 to the delight of the sold-out crowd, and the Spurs' bench outscored the Cavaliers' reserves 49-24.
"We did a good job coming out early and then keeping our foot on the pedal," Leonard said.
"You lose Korver and Shumpert off your bench and things tend to change," Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. "With those two guys out, we tried some different things and it didn't work. It was not on the bench. It was on me."
Lue said he has considered resting his stars over the team's final nine games, which James is not in favor of.
"Coach is going to have his logic of things, but we need to play," he said.
James exited with 25 seconds remaining in the third after taking an elbow to his neck from David Lee on a rebound. James continually rubbed the area before collapsing after he crossed midcourt. He remained on the floor for about a minute before walking unassisted to the bench.
James left for the locker room early in the fourth quarter during a timeout, but said afterward he is fine.
Irving returned to the court for about 15 minutes following the loss to work on his jump shot. The star guard had eight points and two assists in 26 minutes. He finished 4 for 13 from the field and missed his two 3-point attempts.
Cavaliers: Cleveland completed its schedule against the West, finishing 16-14. In addition to losing to the Spurs by 29 points, the Cavaliers lost by 35 to Golden State and 30 to the Los Angeles Clippers . . . James needs 24 points to pass Shaquille O'Neal for seventh overall in career scoring. O'Neal has 28,596 career points . . . The Cavaliers averaged 116.3 points in their previous four games.
Spurs: San Antonio is holding opponents under 100 points per game for the 22nd straight season . . . Danny Green tied his season high with four blocked shots . . . Leonard has scored in double figures in 100 straight games.
Cavaliers: At the Chicago Bulls on Thursday night.
Spurs: Host the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night.
Mike Felger and Marc Bertrand talk about the Celtics clinching the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference and other potential threats for the C's.