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Review: Brooklyn Nets vs Boston Celtics

Count on the Celtics to make a comeback. This team doesn’t lie down easy, Rondo or no Rondo. But the comeback couldn’t be sustained all the way as the Celtics fell to the Nets 102-97.

Two things are clearly borne out. Rajon Rondo is the heart and soul of this Celtics team. And this team is still a team without him in the lineup. Paul Pierce had to shoulder the burden of carrying the offense towards the end, but without Rondo to conjure up space creatively.

Not that Doc Rivers was going to moon: “I don’t actually know, I didn’t even ask,” Rivers said of the diagnosis of trainer Ed Lacerte on Rajon Rondo. “I asked how he was doing. I pretty much assumed he wasn’t going to play because of the way he was walking this morning. We just did our little walk-through at the hotel with (Leandro Barbosa). And we’ll try to play that way.”

Only 40 minutes prior to tip-off was it declared that Rondo wouldn’t suit up. His counterpart on the Nets, Deron Williams was a delight to watch. His brand of crossover is unique as he shimmies left and right, cradling the ball, then explodes unlike any other guard in the league. He has a good chemistry going with his backcourt partner, Joe Johnson. Both of them combined for 43 points and 12 assists, but neither shot particularly well. Williams and Brook Lopez had 24 points each.

Dominance on the glass was one of the reasons the Nets came out on top. Anytime you can grab 18 offensive rebounds and 19 second chance points off of them, you are sitting pretty. Nets had 14 offensive rebounds in the first half alone.

The third quarter was almost the undoing of the Nets as the Celtics went on a 20-2 run. But down the stretch, the absence of Rondo was sorely felt. His replacement, Leandro Barbosa dropped 17 points but only had 2 assists. But he did get under the skin of the Nets enough to warrant a headlock from Keith Bogans.

The game came right down to the wire. Garnett drove in for a hook shot to make it 89-93. And a three by Jeff Green cut the lead to 92-93 with a minute left. Pierce had some heroics and some bloopers. He finished with 22 points but missed two free throws with the Celtics down 92-95. Then he hit a three with 24 seconds left to cut the lead to 95-97. There were some iffy calls near the end which could have changed the outcome of the game. Barbosa stripped Williams of the ball with 24 seconds left, but was called for the foul. The Nets only led by two at that point. That play decided the game as Williams hit the ensuing free throws.

This is the first time the Celtics have lost this season in spite of holding their opponents to under 46 percent shooting from the floor, with Brooklyn shooting 42 percent. This one here is a budding rivalry in the East. In the preseason, the Nets first game in Brooklyn was a loss handed to them by the Celtics. The Nets felt that the Celtics came out with an ‘agenda’ to make a statement to the team in their new arena. Sort of like marking their territory in the East. Both these teams are division rivals and among the handful of teams which have a hope of making it out of the East by getting past the Heat. There’s no love lost between these teams. Their rematches along the season should make for a fun watch.

Here are the highlights of the game:

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