The Celtics may not be blowing their opponents out, but they're certainly playing some of their best team basketball of the season.
It seems like each and every night, everyone is contributing and one player steps up to lead the team to victory. Tonight, that player was Rajon Rondo, who undoubtedly won the showdown against All-Star point guard Devin Harris.
His final stat line of 31 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three steals blew away Harris' 16 points, zero rebounds, five assists and one steal.
In addition to winning the point guard battle, Boston also excelled with their bench play. Eddie House and Mikki Moore dropped in 12 and nine points each, respectively, with House draining three 3-pointers and Moore finishing 4-of-4 from the floor. Stephon Marbury also pitched in four points and dished out five assists.
Paul Pierce even acknowledged that the bench performed much better than the starters.
Rajon Rondo filled the box score by dropping 31 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three steals on the Nets.
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"They gave great energy," he said. "Stephon is doing a great job defensively, getting into the defense, finding guys. Eddie House is shooting lights out right now, and Mikki Moore is being active, so we're extremely happy with the way the bench is coming in and picking up the starters when we're down."
Doc Rivers noted after the game that he is particularly pleased with the growth of Marbury's play.
"He's really coming along," Rivers said. "I thought his penetration and his being aggressive... I think it's visible. You can see the difference in Steph [between] when he first got here and now. He's just aggressive right now, and that's what we need him to do."
New Jersey came out of the gates firing and finished the first quarter shooting 57.1% from the field. It looked as if the Nets were going to have a stellar offensive performance, but the Celtics had different ideas.
Boston took the court with a vengeance in the second quarter and it wound up showing on the scoreboard. The Nets were limited to only 20 points in the frame while Boston poured in 37 on 52.0% shooting from the floor. That run gave the Celtics a seven-point advantage heading into the locker room, with the score at 58-51.
That's where the lead hovered for most of the third and fourth quarters until Vince Carter led a Nets comeback down the stretch. He scored nine points in the frame on 4-of-7 shooting. Five of those points came in a 21-second span that cut the lead to 106-104 with 50 seconds remaining in the game.
After Pierce missed a three-pointer, New Jersey had a chance to tie or take the lead on the final possession. Lawrence Frank called timeout and drew up a play for his star perimeter player. It worked, and Carter got solid look from in front of the Celtics bench. The shot was challenged just enough to make it come up short, but Carter hustled after the board and secured one more shot for New Jersey. He dished off to Harris and he clanked a three-pointer that sent the Celtics to their fifth straight win.
"[Vince Carter] got a good shot off and off the rebound, he drew to, and kicked it to me," Harris said of the final possession. "I thought I had a good look off the one dribble, you know, but it just didn't follow through."
Carter finished the night with a game-high 33 points, 12 rebounds and five assists.
With the key win, Boston maintained their one-game lead over the Orlando Magic for the No. 2 seed in the East. Both teams have four games remaining on the schedule, with two road games sandwiched between their final home games.