BOSTON - The Boston Celtics haven't found a way to fix their defensive woes, even against a team with one of the worst records in NBA history.
Center Brook Lopez scored 25 points and guards Devin Harris and Courtney Lee added 23 and 21 points, respectively, as the New Jersey Nets topped the Celtics, 104-96, on Saturday.
The Nets, who entered the game 5-52 and 2-27 on the road, took a 29-27 lead on Keyon Dooling’s jumper at the end of the first quarter and never trailed again.
“Any win for us is big. There’s no question,” Nets coach Kiki Vandeweghe said. “But to get a win on the road – and this is one of the toughest places to play in the NBA just shows that — it should demonstrate to our guys that if they play with effort, they can compete against anybody.”
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New Jersey must win at least four of its remaining 24 games to overtake the 1972-73 76ers’ 9-73 record. The 76ers had a .110 winning percentage that season; the Nets’ victory Saturday raised theirs to .103.
Kevin Garnett had 26 points and Marquis Daniels had 16 for the Celtics, playing their third straight game without Paul Pierce. The Celtics hope to get Pierce back for Tuesday’s game against Detroit.
New Jersey took 41 free throws to the Celtics’ 11.
“It shows that we were aggressive,” Lopez said. “A lot of the season, we’ve been settling for jump shots at very inopportune times. Tonight we were very assertive in trying to get to the basket and get the best possible shot we could.”
Garnett said he was “disgusted” at the loss and said it came down to defense. “In this league you have to get stops, it’s that simple. A team gets into a rhythm, and it’s hard to turn it off.”
Boston shot 63 percent in the first quarter and had a 12-2 lead, but the Nets charged back to take a 29-27 lead at the end of the quarter.
In the fourth, the Celtics cut an 18-point deficit to six on Ray Allen’s 3-pointer with 2:05 remaining, but Kris Humphries’ layup and two foul shots by Lopez ended Boston’s rally.
On Feb. 5, the Nets hung with the Celtics until the last couple of minutes in a 96-87 loss.