IT’S ABOUT TIME, GUYS
This was the kind of game we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from the Celtics over the past few years -- and have seen so few of this season. Their trademark suffocating defense was spectacular; the Nets' 76 points represented a season low for a Boston opponent this season. The Celtics held the Nets to 40.6 percent shooting and 35 percent from 3-point territory. Those are all numbers we’ve seen over the years when Boston was among the more dominating defenses -- but rarely in 2012-13. And -- spoiler alert! -- the Celtics actually outrebounded an opponent. We are not making this up. They had a 41-36 edge on the glass and a 16-14 advantage in second-chance points. The Celtics also kept their poise when the Nets cut a 21-point deficit to eight late in the third quarter. Boston then scored the final seven points of the period to get the lead back to a comfortable 15.
The Celtics took control of this game with an overpowering second quarter, piling up 34 points, their most in any quarter this season. They shot 59 percent in the period to the Nets’ 37 percent. They had a big advantage on the glass. The Celtics trailed 24-22 after one quarter and were down 29-26 when the game turned irrevocably in their favor. Boston went on runs of 17-2 and 22-4 to build a 15-point lead. It was a 14-point lead at the break. Consider this: When Jared Sullinger converted a layup to give the Celtics a 41-31 lead, there was still 5:30 left in the first half. Over the final 29 minutes, 30 seconds, the Celtics led by double digits for all but one minute late in the third quarter.
KG AND GERALD WALLACE, 2.0
Once again, a Celtics-Nets game featured a confrontation (of sorts) between Kevin Garnett and Gerald Wallace. The two tangled in the last meeting between the teams in late November, resulting in fines for both players. That was the same game Rajon Rondo went at Kris Humphries and was hit with a two-game suspension. All was quiet on Christmas Day until the fourth quarter, when Jeff Green fouled Wallace. KG then (legitimately) objected to Wallace holding on to his shorts, which Wallace did for a number of seconds. There was some gathering and yakking, but all that came out of it was two free throws by Wallace (on the Green foul) and double technicals for Wallace and Garnett. "I don't know where in America you can jack somebody's pants up or shorts up," KG told reporters after the game. "I don't know, I don't know, I don't know what the hell was going on." Wallace also was the victim of a Sullinger flagrant foul with 6:03 left in the game, but it was an otherwise tension-free game. Humphries did not play because of an abdominal strain.
PAUL PIERCE, ASSIST MAN
The Celtics captain channeled his inner Rondo and produced a season-high 10 assists, five more than league assist leader Rondo. Pierce’s previous high was a nine-dime submission on Dec. 8 against the 76ers. Pierce had a couple of dandy feeds, one to Sullinger on a bounce pass of more than 20 feet. He also assisted on a big 3-pointer by Green that pushed the lead from 12 to 15 points and pretty much ended competition for the evening. Pierce made only 3 of 10 shots after having big games against the Cavaliers and Bucks. The Nets took him out as a scorer, but he more than made up for that with his passing.
SULLINGER, GREEN SHINE OFF THE BENCH
The rookie from Ohio State matched his season high of 16 points, knocking down 6 of 7 shots. He also had seven rebounds while playing nearly 33 minutes, second on the team to Rondo’s 36-plus. Green also came through with a big game, scoring 15 points. Overall, the Celtics’ bench outscored New Jersey’s 43-21, including 21-8 in the second half. The bench also received a late basket from Maine Red Claws import Kris Joseph. It was the first hoop of the season (and his career) for the rookie from Syracuse. He had made two free throws in the win over Portland on Nov. 30. Newcomer Jarvis Varnado also made his Boston debut, playing the final 62 seconds.
WHAT IT MEANS
This arguably was the Celtics’ second-most impressive win of the season, coming as it did against a decent opponent on the road. (The home win over Oklahoma City still is the gold standard.) But it means little if they can’t carry the momentum and instead slip back on the roller coaster, which is quite possible given the upcoming road foes (Clippers and Warriors). Still, the way the Celtics won bodes hope going forward. They were the overwhelming defensive team they say they need to be; they actually rebounded the basketball; and they took a double-digit lead in the second quarter and protected it the way a kid would take care of his new toy.