Nets Vs. Celtics: Boston Pulls Away Late, Downs New Jersey In Final Game Before All-Star Break

The Celtics used a stellar fourth quarter to beat the Nets going away, 94-80, in their final game before the All-Star brak. Paul Pierce bounced back with a dominant performance, scoring 31 points on 10-of-18 from the floor to lead Boston.

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Celtics 94, Nets 80: Big Fourth Quarter Paces Celts To Big Win In Final Game Before Break

What looked early on like a coast into the All-Star break, turned a bit trappy then became the leisurely stroll it resembled in the first quarter as the Celtics used a stellar fourth quarter to beat the Nets going away, 94-80. Paul Pierce bounced back from his lousy game against Miami on Sunday with a dominant performance, scoring 31 points on 10-of-18 from the floor to lead the C's to the win.

Kevin Garnett added 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Celts while Ray Allen chipped in 12 points and Rajon Rondo put up another all-around solid performance with seven points, five rebounds, eight assists and three steals. With the win, the Celts assured themselves the best record in the Eastern Conference headed into the break.

After racing out to a 25-10, first quarter lead during which Nets coach Avery Johnson pulled his entire starting lineup, the Celts slowed down and the Nets woke up. New Jersey came back to lead by as many as nine in the third quarter before heading to the fourth tied at 70. New Jersey would again take the lead in the final frame, but the Celts exploded for a 16-0 run, seven of which came from Pierce, that allowed them to hit the break on a strong note. The Nets only two points of the final 6:17 came when rookie Derrick Favors made two free throws with just 55 seconds left.

Brook Lopez led the Nets with 18 points and Devin Harris chipped in 16. The loss was New Jersey's 16th in its last 17 games against Boston. The Celts (40-14) will next take the floor Tuesday night in Oakland against the Golden State Warriors, the first of a four-game, West coast road trip.

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Celtics vs. Nets: Green Look To End First Half On A High, Healthy Note

The weary, wounded Celtics will finally get some relief in the form of a six-day break beginning later tonight. First, they must deal with the New Jersey Nets. Boston's Atlantic Division foes invade TD Garden tonight in the final game before the All-Star break for both teams.

The Celtics will have Paul Pierce at the ready after the results of an MRI taken on his left foot following Sunday's 0-for-10 shooting performance against Miami came back negative. Not as certain will be the anticipated return of guard Delonte West, who tweaked the same wrist he broke back in November at Tuesday's practice, and was scheduled for x-rays.

The Celts will be looking to avoid a letdown after Sunday's big win over the Heat, as well as use tonight's contest as a bit of a momentum builder headed into the season's second half, which begins next Tuesday night in Oakland against the Golden State Warriors.

For the Nets, they will be looking to avoid dropping their 15th game in their last 16 meetings with the Celts. New Jersey currently stands at 17-39 and in fourth place in the Atlantic, 23.5 games behind the first place C's and are 3-7 in their last 10 games. Their leading scorer, third-year center Brook Lopez, posted 31 points and 11 rebounds in a 94-89 win over Charlotte last Friday.

The Celtics (39-14) look to finish the first half of the season on a high note against the Nets, tonight at 7:30 p.m. EST, on Comcast Sports Net New England.

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For Celtics, Upcoming Time Off Couldn't Be Better Timed

With just one more game remaining until the All-Star break, please excuse the Celtics if they seem a bit relieved. Boston currently resembles a MASH unit more than a basketball team and the six days off between games following Wednesday night's clash with the New Jersey Nets at TD Garden (7:30 p.m. EST, on Comcast Sports Net New England) may well do wonders for some of the C's walking wounded.

Headed into the break, no less than than six members of the Celts regular rotation are banged up, from Jermaine O'Neal's knee surgery to Shaquille O'Neal's troublesome Achilles and right on down the line. Last Thursday night, against the Lakers, Nate Robinson suffered a knee bruise that took him out of that game and rendered him limited on Sunday against Miami and then, on the heels of an 0-for-10 shooting performance, we were treated to the news that captain Paul Pierce was dealing with a foot injury serious enough to require an MRI on Monday. The results of that test came back negative, showing only some bruising, and Pierce will be available to face the Nets. Still, given all of these injury issues -- we haven't even mentioned Marquis DanielsSemih Erden or, most recently, Delonte West re-injuring his wrist in Tuesday's practice -- the upcoming break couldn't possibly come at a better time for the C's.

"Obviously, the break is coming at a great time. We have one game left," Celtics coach Doc Rivers told ESPN Boston.

Rivers also said that Shaq's Achilles is still giving him problems and couldn't guarantee that the big man will see any action when the Celts resume their schedule out against Golden State next Tuesday, but that Erden is improving and is expected back against the Warriors.

Of course, the break won't necessarily be so relaxing for everyone. Rivers will be coaching the Eastern Conference All-Stars on Sunday night in L.A., and Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo will all be on hand as well. It will be interesting to see how many minutes Rivers gives Pierce in the game, as well as how the captain looks defending his title in the three-point contest on All-Star Saturday Night, a showcase in which Allen is also scheduled to participate.

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