Rondo powers Celtics past Nets
BOSTON (AP) — Rajon Rondo scored 20 points and the Boston Celtics dominated the boards to beat Brooklyn 91-84 and stop the Nets’ four-game winning streak Friday night.
Boston scored the first five points and never trailed, although Brooklyn used an 11-point run to cut the lead to 70-68 with 2:02 left in the third quarter. But the Celtics came back to take a 78-70 lead entering the final quarter and led by at least seven points the rest of the way.
The Celtics outrebounded the Nets 62-37, an important advantage since they turned the ball over 28 times, twice as many as Brooklyn. Rondo also had nine assists and seven rebounds.
The Nets were led by Joe Johnson with 21 points and Deron Williams with 20 as they fell back to .500 two days after going over it for the first time this season.
Jason Collins, the NBA’s first openly gay player, did not play for the Nets for the first time in seven games since signing a 10-day contract Feb. 23. Collins, who played for the Celtics last season, signed a second 10-day contract Wednesday.
The Celtics, winning for just the second time in nine games, got 15 points from Jeff Green and 14 from Jerryd Bayless. Jared Sullinger led all rebounders with 12.
Paul Pierce scored 10 points in his second appearance in Boston since the blockbuster trade that sent him and Kevin Garnett to the Nets in the offseason. Pierce spent 15 seasons with the Celtics after they drafted him with the 10th pick in 1998.
He received light applause when he was introduced with the other Nets starters. Garnett missed his fourth straight game with back spasms.
They each scored six points in their first game in Boston this season, an 85-79 Brooklyn win Jan. 26. Both were emotional during and after video tributes on the video screen above center court.
On Friday, the Celtics built a 70-57 lead with four minutes left in the third quarter, then let the Nets get back in the game.
Brooklyn scored the next 11 points with Shaun Livingston starting the spurt with two free throws and Andray Blatche following with a 3-pointer. Andrei Kirilenko made a three-point play, Marcus Thornton sank a layup and Johnson hit a free throw.
Green ended the run with a three-point play and the Celtics rallied to a 78-70 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Blatche sank a free throw to make it 78-71, but consecutive baskets by Bayless put Boston on top 82-71.
The Celtics took their biggest lead of the first half, 41-24, on Chris Babb’s 3-pointer with 7:51 left in the second quarter. They led 53-41 at halftime despite 13 turnovers that led to 12 Nets points. But Boston hit 45.7 percent of its shots, while Brooklyn made just 34.1 and outrebounded the Nets 32-18.