Krstic Can't Help Push Celtics Past Former Team

Newark, N.J. -- Not even Nenad Krstic’s return trip to face his former team could help give the Boston Celtics a win.

Boston fell to the New Jersey Nets, 88-79, at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., on Monday. The loss puts the Celtics (47-18) in a share for the Eastern Conference lead with the Chicago Bulls.

“I was just disappointed in our execution and our focus,” coach Doc Rivers said. “We’re just not playing well right now.”

The Monday trip to the Garden State marked Krstic’s first game against the Nets while playing for an East opponent. The 7-footer spent four seasons with New Jersey, a run that ended after the 2007-08 season. Krstic finished with just six points and two rebounds in 19 minutes.

“There’s a lot of different people here now, a new arena,” the 27-year-old said. “I don’t really have that feeling of playing against a former team anymore.”

Krstic has been with Boston since Feb. 24. The Celtics acquired him, along with forward Jeff Green and a future first-rounder, from the Oklahoma City Thunder for center Kendrick Perkins and guard Nate Robinson.

Since joining the team, Krstic is averaging 12.6 points and 7.1 boards in nine games. Both of those figures are above his season average and near career highs.

“He’s been very good,” Rivers said. “He’s better than advertised as far as I’m concerned.”

In back-to-back games prior to Monday, Krstic posted double-doubles, including a 16-rebound, 15-point performance against the Philadelphia Sixers on March 11. Rivers believes Krstic can be a key player for the Celtics moving forward. He already likes what he’s seen with him in the starting lineup alongside Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo.

“When I joined the team, I was surprised coach put me in the starting five out there with four All-Stars,” Krstic said. “It was a great feeling.”

“Lawrence (Frank) knew him better than I did, but his IQ is really good,” said Rivers, referring to assistant coach Lawrence Frank, Krstic's former head coach in New Jersey. “He’s playing with the IQ group, which helps him as well. He’s really finding where to go on the floor, where to space. He’s also finding, if he’s open, he’s going to get the ball. Our guys are extremely unselfish.”

New Jersey drafted Krstic with the 24th pick of the first round in the 2002 NBA Draft. The native of Serbia initially went overseas to play with Partizan Belgrade before finally joining the Nets two years later. In Krstic’s four years with the team, he went to the playoffs two times. He left to go overseas again in 2008, then inked a deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder the next season before being dealt to Boston.

Krstic’s night was cut short after picking up his fourth foul at the 6:43 mark of the third quarter. Rivers stayed with the hot hand of Glen “Big Baby” Davis, who finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds off the bench.

The Celtics return home on Wednesday to face the Indiana Pacers at 7:30 p.m. ET.

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