Nate Robinson made his presence known from the very first shot of the game- a three-pointer from the top of the arch, which he drained. The message to the New Jersey Nets: don’t think this will be easy just because Rajon Rondo isn’t playing (sore hamstring). Given the starting opportunity, plus extended minutes due to a lack of available point guards, Robinson excelled, scoring 21 points while collecting six rebounds and six assists in a 100-75 Boston Celtics victory Sunday over the Nets. It was the Celtics’ seventh win a row, and their ninth consecutive win at the Prudential Center. Robinson tied a season high with 66.7 percent shooting, coming just shy of his season high for scoring, which came when he scored 22 in a losing effort against the Toronto Raptors on November 21.
Bench Comes Alive
The Celtics bench had come under fire for blowing a big lead to the Chicago Bulls on Friday, forcing the starters to play extra minutes (four starters had to play 32+ minutes). Against the Nets, however, they showed that not only could they maintain leads, they could also extend them. The Celtics began the second quarter leading 27-25. By the time the second quarter ended, the Celtics were leading 57-37, and they coasted through the rest of the game. The second quarter was highlighted by terrific play by Celtics reserves on both ends of the court.
After nearly two minutes of scoreless basketball, Glen Davis scored on a layup, and then Von Wafer (eight points, one rebound, one steal, one block in 18 minutes) followed suit, pushing the score to a more comfortable 31-25. Later on, Marquis Daniels drove to the line and got fouled. After making both free-throws, Daniels grabbed the ensuing errant inbound pass by the Nets and scored an easy layup, pushing the score to 37-27. Daniels also stole a pass off a Nets defensive rebound in the fourth quarter. He missed the layup, but Avery Bradley, playing backup point guard to Robinson, tipped it in, pushing the score to 94-66. Bad passing was a consistent problem for the Nets, who committed 18 turnovers in the game, which led to 16 Celtics points.
Daniels and Davis were also involved in a nice defensive play in the second. Davis deflected a Nets pass just beyond the three-point arch, which bounced right to Daniels, who drove straight at the basket. Daniels missed the shot, but Davis collected the offensive rebound and was fouled. He made both free throws, pushing the score to 48-29 with 3:35 left in the second. Davis finished the game with 16 points, including a 20-foot two-pointer as time expired in the second, and nine rebounds.
Daniels’ signature play came in the fourth quarter. Robinson brought the quarter-opening inbound pass up the floor, while Daniels hovered unguarded in the right corner of the court. Daniels then sprinted to the basket and leaped into the air. Robinson made a perfectly timed pass, and Daniels slammed it, pushing the lead to 82-53 to begin the final quarter. Daniels finished with 10 points, two steals and a block. He was one of five players to finish the game with double-digit points, along with Robinson, Davis, Ray Allen (13 points, five rebounds, four assists), and Kevin Garnett (13 points, 14 rebounds). It was Garnett’s second consecutive double-double, and his tenth this season.
The bench was so dominating that Doc Rivers was able to rest his starters for most of the second half. Playing time was split exactly 50-50 between starters and reserves.
The starters did have one exciting sequence midway through the third quarter. Caught behind the action, Robinson sprinted up-court as Garnett stole the ball. Garnett’s pass hit Robinson in the back, but it bounced right to Allen. Robinson continued running towards the basket, and Allen passed the ball behind him. Robinson had to stop and turn to find the ball, but he was still able to turn around again to face the basket and lay it in before the Nets could get back defensively.
Overpowering the Nets
The Celtics hold a considerable size advantage over the Nets, especially at center and power forward, and they used it on both ends of the court. The Celtics owned the Nets in the paint, outscoring New Jersey 52-28. The Celtics were stronger and faster, often beating their marks to the basket for the layup. In the second quarter, Ray Allen caught a Robinson pass and dribbled into the key. All five Nets swarmed him to contest the shot, but he still managed to squirm his way through for the easy 2-footer. All the Nets managed to do was hurt each other, with small forward Damian James smacking power forward Derrick Favors in the face. It was emblematic of the generally inept play by the mediocre-at-best Nets.
The Nets do not have a strong defensive center in Brook Lopez, nor a strong defensive power forward in Kris Humphries. This allowed the Celtics to box-out the Nets inside the paint, collecting eight offensive rebounds in the process. The Celtics abused Humphries in particular, with both Garnett and Davis able to push him around as they drained easy baskets.
Defensively, the Celtics consistently denied the Nets any inside presence, forcing New Jersey to consistently settle for long jump shots. The Celtics out-rebounded the Nets 49-36, and they only allowed New Jersey five offensive rebounds. The Nets could only get one shot for most possessions, and they shot only 37.5 percent when they did. That’s an easy way to win games.