Celtics 83, Nets 66

BOSTON -- Gabe Pruitt got his chance to play with the starters, and he came out of it with all the bumps and bruises of the NBA regular he hopes to be.

"I haven't played that many minutes since ... ever," the Celtics' second-year point guard said Sunday after playing almost 44 minutes in Boston's 83-66 exhibition victory over the New Jersey Nets. "I think I showed that I could play with the Big Three. Putting me on the floor won't be a step back."

Rajon Rondo did most of the work at point guard last season when the Celtics won their 17th NBA title, but he twisted his ankle on Friday night against the New York Knicks. Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Rondo was not seriously injured but sat out as a precaution.

Given the need for a point guard, Rivers decided to start Pruitt so he could have a chance to work with the starters. Pruitt scored 11 points with 12 rebounds, adding seven assists with six turnovers.

"He was so tired, had all these bruises on him; he was grabbing everything," Rivers said. "And I told him, 'You just did what (Allen) Iverson has done for 10 years. Get used to it.' It's something he would like to get used to, if he could."

Pruitt played 97 minutes all of last season, when he got into 15 games while spending most of the year with the NBDL. He played 44 minutes three times in college at Southern Cal in games that went into overtime.

"Just trying to make the most of the minutes I do get," said Pruitt, who is hoping to avoid another season shuttling back to the NBA's developmental league. "I kind of feel like I'm beyond that, but it's up to the coaches."

Kevin Garnett, who scored eight points with eight rebounds while playing sparingly in the first and third quarters, said Pruitt has had plenty of time to learn in practice while guarding Rondo, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.

"Giving him a good taste of what the Truth (Pierce) is all about will make him better," Garnett said.

The new Boston Garden was half-filled -- likely for the last time this year -- with the crowd cheering loudest when the scoreboard showed fans in Red Sox gear to the strains of Fenway anthem "Sweet Caroline." The Celtics will wrap up the exhibition season on Tuesday night against the Knicks in New York, then have a week off before raising the 2007-08 championship banner on Oct. 28 against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

A spot in the rafters is already reserved, with the empty hooks ready to hang the team's 17th NBA title alongside the 22 names and numbers of retired players.

Pierce and Allen scored six points apiece in 20 and 16 minutes, respectively. Kendrick Perkins had 18 points with nine rebounds as Boston outrebounded the Nets 56-29.

"We got just killed on the boards tonight," Nets guard Devin Harris said. "It's a lot of small things, small details that you see the Celtics do. I think they've got four or five guys with 10 years in the league. We've got four or five guys with maybe two."

Ryan Anderson scored 20 for the Nets, who lost to the Celtics 111-108 on Thursday without any of the Big Three playing.

This one wasn't close.

Perkins, the fifth starter, played 23 minutes and helped the Celtics open a 21-10 lead with 3:22 left in the first quarter. They made it 38-24 midway through the second and took a 20-point lead halfway though the third.