C's Notch 10th Straight Road Win
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Maybe they sleep better on the road. Maybe the opposing crowd revs them up. Maybe they are just a really good team and the whole road thing means nothing.
Whatever it is, the Celtics got back to their winning ways with an 86-77 victory over the Nets at the Izod Center last night, their 10th straight win away from the Garden.
Two days after suffering their fourth loss of the season, the Celtics improved to 14-2 away from home. The Celtics tied the second-longest road winning streak in team history. The franchise record is 13 road wins in a row, set by the 1964-65 team.
"I was happy with the effort," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, whose team became the ninth in NBA history to reach 30 wins before their fifth loss. "It was a good character win in a lot of ways coming off a loss."
Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen combined for 54 points on 21-of-39 shooting for the Celtics, while the bench added 27 points. Boston, however, lost point guard Rajon Rondo to a back injury, and it's uncertain whether he'll play tonight against Washington.
"It's interesting, because when you win games, you don't think about the last game you won. You let it go," said Allen, who returned after missing Wednesday's surprising loss to Charlotte because of a pinched nerve in his neck. "In the same situation, with a loss, you have to let it go. But you learn more lessons when you lose than when you win.
"We have a mature group of guys. When we go out there, our mistakes have to be very few out there on the floor. It's hard to put a finger on [our road success]. But we just like to win games. Our habits are consistent on the road, too."
Following Wednesday's loss, the Celtics wanted to focus on tightening up their defense, already best in the NBA. Boston did just that by holding New Jersey to 36.5 percent shooting, including 6 of 23 from 3-point range. The Celtics outscored the Nets, 23-9, in the fourth quarter by limiting New Jersey to 15.8 percent shooting (3 of 19).
"Our mind-set was to get back on track, more than anything, defensively," Garnett said. "We were trying to be a lot more talkative. Communication was big. [Jason Kidd's] been on a tear with these triple-doubles. We were trying to control him. We wanted to slow some of that down. We know they score a lot of points in transition, so we wanted to make that an emphasis, too."
Kidd still narrowly missed a triple-double with 11 points, 13 rebounds, and 9 assists.
The 9 points in the fourth marked the fewest by the Nets in any quarter this season. It was also the first time the Celtics held an opponent to fewer than 10 in a quarter in 2007-08. The Nets, who prefer an uptempo style, scored only 8 fast-break points, and missed 15 of 24 free throws.
"We had our ups and downs, but we finally made a defensive run in the fourth quarter," said Pierce, who had 18 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists despite suffering from a stomach ailment all day. "We limited their second opportunities."
Nets forward Vince Carter, who missed 13 of 20 shots, said, "The shots were there. We had good looks, we had great looks. It's just tough because we were getting everything we wanted, just couldn't finish."
The Celtics owned a 47-44 lead at halftime after shooting 57.1 percent. Garnett scored 14 of his 20 points in the first half and Allen had 11 of his 16. The Celtics actually trailed by 12 points before outscoring the Nets, 25-14, in the second quarter to take the lead. The Nets, however, outscored the Celtics, 24-16, in the third to go up, 68-63.
The Celtics opened the fourth quarter with a 13-2 run to take a 76-70 lead on an Allen 3-pointer with 6:12 remaining. Boston also scored 5 points on three turnovers in that stretch. An Eddie House 3-pointer gave Boston a 79-73 lead with 4:52 left.
"We just ran out of steam," said Nets coach Lawrence Frank. "It was a combination of their defense and our shots we couldn't make."
An Allen reverse lay-in gave Boston an 81-74 lead with 2:58 remaining. House missed two 3-pointers before nailing a trey with 1:26 left to give the Celtics an 84-74 lead.
"I just felt like I just needed to make one, especially at that point right there," House said. "We didn't want to give them life. Stick a knife in their heart and it was over."