Celtics shore up game - Boston Herald

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Celtics shore up game - Boston Herald
Apr 15th 2012, 04:49

NEWARK, N.J. — One hundred years to the evening the Titanic had its fateful collision in the North Atlantic, the Celtics [team stats] managed to avoid the Atlantic Division iceberg that is the Nets.

Playing the middle game of three in as many nights, the Celts were drifting near trouble early before steering away and avoiding a second straight loss to a lottery-bound team.

Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass combined for 39 points and 23 rebounds, and Rajon Rondo [stats] went for 15 assists in a 94-82 victory for the Celtics, who clinched a playoff spot with Milwaukee's loss to Indiana later last night.

Rondo produced four assists and four turnovers in the opening period, then had 11 dishes and no drops the rest of the way in the Celts' last game in New Jersey against the Brooklyn-bound Nets.

After a sluggish first half that had to give them fitful flashbacks to the previous night's loss to the reeling Raptors, the Celtics made their move in the third quarter. In Toronto, they had fired up 3-pointers when faced with a challenge. This time, the C's hit their weaker foe with body shots.

"We came out a lot more aggressive," Garnett said. "(We) ran our system, ran our things, defensively slowed them down a bit, and never looked back."

Added Paul Pierce [stats], who stubbed his left toe and was walking gingerly afterward: "We played with more aggression, more attack going to the rim. The defense finally kicked in in the third quarter. We were able to get consecutive stops."

The Celts were outscored 16-4 in the paint in the first quarter but had 26 inside the rest of the way.

"I think (Friday) night it was 47 jumpers and nine posts for the game," coach Doc Rivers said. "You're not going to win a lot of games unless you're on fire that way, and we definitely talked about that at halftime.

"We have great shooters, but you can't fall in love with the jump shot, especially when fatigue is a factor. And it's absolutely a factor right now."

Rondo had seven assists in the third quarter, pushing his total into double figures for the 21st straight game. But the uprising was far from a one man show.

Garnett opened the second half's scoring with a dunk, then Bass bulled his way through two Nets to collect a rebound and slam it home. The latter play had New Jersey coach Avery Johnson chasing the officials up the sideline on the way to a technical foul.

Pierce made that free throw, and the other two starters — Avery Bradley and Rondo — completed the 9-0 run with a jumper and drive, respectively.

The Nets did make a push, but Bradley blunted it by taking feeds from Rondo and hitting three consecutive 3-pointers.

The Celts held the Nets to 24 percent shooting in the third quarter and outscored them 26-13. They stretched their advantage in the fourth before giving their starters some rest.

Afterward the Celtics spread the credit around to many. Garnett caught much of it, but he passed off to Rondo.

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