Ford Keys to the Game: Nets 80, Celtics 94

Ford Keys to the Game

Nets 80, Celtics 94

Game Highlights

Photo of the Game

Nate Robinson

Nate Robinson goes perfectly horizontal on us as he dives for a loose ball during Boston's 40th win of the season.
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty

Key Moment

There have been plenty of trends to this season for the Boston Celtics. There are the injuries; there’s the incredibly efficient offense; there’s the dominant play at home; there’s the amazing perseverance through several big setbacks. One trend that continues to fly under the radar, however, is that something as small as a dunk can spark the C’s into a completely different team.

Boston came out of the gates playing well in the first quarter, and for a few minutes, it looked like tonight’s game against the Nets would turn into a blowout. The Celtics led by nine points less than three minutes into the game, but New Jersey found a way to claw back and tie the game up at 46-46 heading into halftime.

The start of the third quarter was much like the start of the first, but with a complete role reversal. New Jersey scored the first eight points of the second half by shooting 4-of-4 from the field while forcing the Celtics into three straight misses. The visitors eventually jumped ahead by nine points and it seemed like the Celtics were destined for a desperate attempt at a comeback in the fourth quarter. That’s before one of those game-changing dunks took place.

Paul Pierce, who scored a game-high 31 points thanks to an ultra-aggressive style of play, missed a layup with 5:09 remaining in the quarter while the C’s trailed by seven. He was attempting to will his team back into the game with his aggressiveness, but what happened next took care of that for him.

Kevin Garnett rose up for the rebound on the left side of the basket and, in one motion, grabbed the ball and threw it through the net for a putback slam that made the Garden erupt. In the short-term future of the contest, Boston went on a 6-0 run to pull within one point of New Jersey, and it all started with that play. In the long-term future of the game? Well, that’s a different story.

Boston was completely dominant from that point on and at one point strung together a 36-14 run after Garnett’s follow up dunk. There were two enormous factors that played into the run by Boston.

First, the Celtics’ offense was completely balanced, with eight of the 10 Celtics who appeared in the game contributing points to the run. The only C’s who didn’t score during that stretch were Rajon Rondo, who was busy dishing out dimes, and Luke Harangody, who was on the court more for his hustle and rebounding.

Second, Boston’s defense turned back to its impenetrable ways. New Jersey had scored 70 points through three quarters and was shooting 50.0 percent from the floor. KG’s dunk sparked the Celtics’ energy and the defense picked up for the remainder of the game. In fact, the Nets scored only 16 points over the final 17:08 of the game after Garnett through home the dunk. Only 10 of those points came in the third quarter, as the Celtics forced New Jersey into misses on 21 of its 24 field goal attempts in the final period.

There is no doubt that, yet again, the dunk started it all. Is it the crowd getting jacked up after the dunk, or could it be that these thunderous slams inspire the players to give more effort? We’re not exactly sure what it is, but what we do know is that the Celtics can add another game to the list that details big dunks sparking them to a win. This one was a 94-80 victory over the Nets, and it sends Boston into the All-Star break as the top seed in the Eastern Conference with a 40-14 record.

Key Box Score Line

Sunday afternoon was one of Paul Pierce’s worst days as a professional basketball player. Though his team won, he scored just one point on 0-of-10 shooting against the Miami Heat.

As bad as that performance was, it was quickly erased tonight by one of the best bounce-back games of Pierce’s career. In his final contest before All-Star weekend, the captain dropped in a game-high 31 points on 10-of-18 shooting. Just to do the math for you, that’s 30 more points than he scored on Sunday, and 10 more made field goals.

While his team struggled to find its rhythm offensively, Pierce attacked the basket to help his team stay afloat. That aggressive style of play led to him tying his season-high in free throw attempts with 13, 10 of which he made.

There’s no doubt that the taste of Sunday’s poor performance lingered in Pierce’s mouth for the past two days, and that’s too bad if you’re a member of the New Jersey Nets.

Box Score Nuggets

  • Boston committed only nine turnovers in the game, leading to four points by New Jersey.
  • In contrast, New Jersey committed 17 turnovers, leading to 20 points by Boston.
  • Three players for each team scored in double-figures.
  • Paul Pierce scored a game-high 31 points on 10-of-18 shooting.
  • Pierce's 13 free throw attempts fell just two attempts shy of New Jersey's total as a team (15).
  • Brook Lopez led the Nets with 18 points.
  • He also only grabbed five rebounds.
  • Kevin Garnett notched the game's only double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
  • The Celtics finished with 11 steals to the Nets' two.
  • New Jersey's bench grabbed 19 rebounds, while Boston's reserves pulled in only seven.
  • Sasha Vujacic and Devin Harris finished with five assists, and Lopez dished out three. Outside of them, none of the other six Nets who recorded an assist finished with more than one.
  • Both teams made 31 field goals.
  • Boston attempted 39 free throws to New Jersey's 15.
  • The teams combined to shoot 8-of 31 from 3-point range (6-of-20 for New Jersey, 2-of-11 for Boston).
  • The Nets shot only 38.8 percent in the game.
  • Both teams scored 24 points in two of their four quarters tonight.
  • New Jersey scored only 10 points in the fourth quarter, which is just one point shy of the all-time low for a Boston opponent in the final frame.

Quote of the Night

Doc Rivers on having a close game against a poor Nets team: "Listen, every game’s not going to be beautiful. You would love to blow every team out; that’s not going to happen. It’s the NBA. We just want to win the game."