Nets beat Rondo-less Celtics, 102-97

Associated Press Modified: November 15, 2012 at 11:46 pm •  Published: November 15, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) — Craving a victory over a top team, all the Brooklyn Nets needed was someone to make a couple of big shots.

That's one of the reasons they traded for Joe Johnson.

Johnson made the tiebreaking basket with 3:03 left, followed with another jumper, and the Nets beat the Boston Celtics 102-97 on Thursday night for their fourth straight victory.

Johnson finished only 6 of 17 from the field, but he had the two biggest makes of the game in the biggest victory his new team has recorded since acquiring him from Atlanta.

"When you're struggling like that, a lot of times we remember what happens in the fourth quarter. (Like) a baseball player. He goes 0 for 3, but he gets up in the ninth inning and hits a home run or a double to bring somebody in. That's what you remember and it's the same thing tonight with Joe," Nets coach Avery Johnson said. "He struggled a little bit but I thought he did a good job to get quality shots."

Especially since fellow All-Star guard Deron Williams was fighting through a foot or ankle injury after getting hit on a spin move earlier in the game.

"Down the stretch I die for moments like that," Joe Johnson said.

"I just didn't make shots like I normally do, but in the last three or four minutes of the game I tried to focus a little more and just be a little more aggressive."

Williams and Brook Lopez each scored 24 points for the Nets, who were blown out by Miami in their lone game against a top opponent this season, their first with a rebuilt team and high expectations in Brooklyn.

So they didn't hide how much it meant to beat the perennial Atlantic Division champions.

"This was a huge win for us," Williams said.

Williams had eight assists and made all nine free throws on a night Paul Pierce had two huge misses from the line in the final minute for the Celtics, who played without injured point guard Rajon Rondo.

Johnson finished with 19 points and eight rebounds for the Nets in front of a sold-out crowd of 17,732 that was divided but certainly loud in the tense, final minutes.

Pierce scored 22 points and Leandro Barbosa had 17 in place of Rondo, who was out with a sprained right ankle. Kevin Garnett added 14 points but Boston had its three-game win streak snapped and lost to the Nets for just the third time in the past 21 meetings.

Boston led 79-74 after three before the Nets evened it up at 85 on Jerry Stackhouse's 3-pointer with 6:21 to play. It was still tied before Johnson made consecutive jumpers and Lopez scored on a follow shot for a six-point lead, and the Celtics could never catch up — especially when Pierce missed two free throws with 34.5 seconds left and Boston trailing by three.

Pierce's layup attempt had barely missed while he was fouled. Instead of the game potentially being tied with a basket and free throw, the Celtics were still down three after the 83.6 percent free throw shooter coming in clanged them both.

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