NEWARK, N.J. — For the second time in as many nights, the Boston Celtics were a bit late in ratcheting up their play defensively.
But the outcome was a far different one on Saturday night, as the C's pulled away with a strong third quarter surge for a 94-82 win.
Boston's frontcourt of Paul Pierce (17 points), Brandon Bass (18 points, 11 rebounds) and Kevin Garnett (21 points, 12 rebounds) all had big games for the Celtics.
But this game, like so many this season, turned in the C's favor because of strong play defensively.
After allowing the Nets to shoot better than 50 percent in the first half, the Celtics clamped down and limited New Jersey to just 24 percent shooting in the third as the C's doubled up the Nets, 26-13.
Boston began the third quarter with a 9-0 run and finished it with a 7-4 surge to lead, 74-61 going into the fourth.
In between those runs, the Celtics got a huge lift from Avery Bradley who scored 11 of Boston's 26 third-quarter points. He finished with 18 points on 7-for-14 shooting along with four rebounds.
Setting up many of Bradley's points was Rajon Rondo, who delivered yet another strong game passing the ball with 14 assists which extended his franchise record 21st straight game with double-digit assists.
New Jersey was led by Deron Williams' 12 points and 14 assists, in addition to former Celtic guard Gerald Green chipping in 15 points of the bench.
The fourth quarter was more of the same as Boston (35-25) bounced back from a disappointing loss at Toronto on Friday night.
In that loss, Boston never at any point in the game established their defensive identity, which more often than not positions them for success.
That was not the case on Saturday, with the Celtics delivering the kind of physical, in-your-face brand of basketball that they'll need to have come playoff time later this month. For most of the game, Boston was the more aggressive team, the one making all the tough plays around the basket and on the perimeter, which put the Nets on their heels and eventually, flat on their backs.
But the C's have no time to kick back and relax, not with a third game in as many nights at Charlotte on Sunday.
Hot shot: The more you watch Avery Bradley, the more impressed you have to be with the way he continues to blossom into an all-around talent. On Saturday, Bradley had 18 points which included a pair of clutch corner 3-pointers to help Boston pull away for the victory. "Avery made two big 3s for us, but the three were huge because it stretched the game open for us," said C's coach Doc Rivers.
In-and-out: New Jersey's Deron Williams did a nice job of finding his teammates (he had 14 assists), but he never really found his stride as a shooter. He had 12 points but missed nine of his 12 shot attempts from the field.