Deron Williams didn't suit up for the New Jersey Nets' last game against the Boston Celtics, and that was ultimately the difference in the game, which the C's won convincingly. Williams will be in action when the Nets return to Boston for the second time this season at 7:30 p.m. EDT on Friday night at TD Garden in Boston, MA (TV/Radio: CSNNE/WEEI).
Williams, the Nets' leader in scoring (21.9 PPG) and assists (8.3 APG), missed practice on Thursday with a sore left foot, but he will play. That's good news for New Jersey, which is dwelling in the cellar of the Atlantic Division, and bad news for Boston, which has struggled to guard players of Williams' caliber.
The Celtics and Nets met once already this year at TD Garden. Paul Pierce scored 24 points and had six rebounds and five assists to lead Boston past New Jersey, 89-70, on Jan. 4. The win was the Celtics' fourth in a row after losing their first three. Brandon Bass had 15 points and 13 rebounds and Kevin Garnett had 14 points and 12 boards. MarShon Brooks, a graduate of Providence College, led the Nets with 17 points and Jordan Farmar scored 11 off the bench.
February wasn't particularly kind to the Nets, although the last five games were better than the previous nine. New Jersey opened the month with a narrow victory over the Detroit Pistons, but then fell into a horrible spell that saw them drop eight games in a row. The last three wins were very encouraging, coming against the Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks and Dallas Mavericks. Williams was the Nets' leading scorer in two of those wins, with Brook Lopez scoring 38 in the last win.
Lopez's monster game led New Jersey to a 93-92 win over the Mavs on Tuesday. First half consistency gave New Jersey a 56-45 lead at halftime, and despite outscoring the Nets 31-23 in the third, Dallas couldn't complete the comeback. Williams had 12 points and 12 assists and Anthony Morrow scored 15 off the bench. Gerald Green, formerly of the Boston Celtics, was signed to a 10-day contract by the Nets this week and had 10 points in his first game against Dallas.
Boston has won two in a row after the All-Star break since losing five straight. The latest win came in a close fight with the Milwaukee Bucks. A big third quarter run put the Celtics firmly in control, but a lapse late in the fourth almost gave the game away. Kevin Garnett (25 points, 10 rebounds) made four big free throws in the final minute to clinch the win.