They aren't out of the woods yet, but the Boston Celtics are trending in the right direction heading into Thursday night's duel with the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center -- the first ever regular season meeting between the two teams in the brand new building -- at 8 p.m. ET (TNT/WEEI).
Boston (5-3) dropped its first two games against the Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks, but two close wins against the Washington Wizards brought the Celtics back to .500. After another setback against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Celtics have posted three consecutive wins over the Bucks, Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz.
An effective bench kept the Celtics in the game early against the Jazz, and despite a right ankle injury to star guard Rajon Rondo, Boston was able to secure a 98-93 win. Paul Pierce, the Celtics' leading scorer through eight games (19.8 PPG), led all scorers with 23 while both Jeff Green and Leandro Barbosa added 16 points. Rondo left the game late in the third quarter with his ankle injury, but extended his double-digit assists streak to 32 games before he left.
Rondo is officially a game-time decision for the Celtics on Thursday night.
The Nets are still acclimating themselves to Brooklyn, but have gone 3-1 at home on the young season. Brooklyn won its season opener, 107-100, at the Barclays Center before dropping its next two games against the Minnesota Timberwolves and Heat -- a 103-73 blowout. Ever since, the Nets have rattled off three wins in a row -- two against the Orlando Magic and another against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Brooklyn's latest win came against the Cavs, 114-101, on Tuesday. Deron Williams (26 points, 10 assists), Joe Johnson (25 points) and Brook Lopez powered the Nets, who shot a combined 54.5 percent. Brooklyn held a 39-37 edge in rebounding and a 27-16 advantage in assists.
Boston and Brooklyn met twice in the preseason, with the road team winning each time. The Celtics lost, 97-96, in the first meeting at the Barclays Center but cruised to a 115-85 win in the finale two days later.
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