The Brooklyn Nets went up to Boston and escaped with a win the hard way.
Avery Johnson’s team played the majority of the game without starters Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, and Brook Lopez, but the Nets’ reliable reserves stepped in and carried Brooklyn to a 95-83 win.
While Lopez played just 17:20 due to foul trouble, Wallace and Humphries were the unfortunate casualties of a second-quarter scrap that spilled into the stands. Following Humphries’ shooting foul on Boston forward Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo shoved a prone Humphries underneath the basket.
The two exchanged shoves and all 10 players tangled under the basket. Wallace and Garnett came together in the scuffle, which led to both players receiving technical fouls. Due to an earlier technical, Wallace earned an exit from the game.
Both Rondo and Humphries were ejected outright.
“It’s not about being tough guys,” Deron Williams said. “We’re just not going to back down from anybody.”
“They battled and they fought hard, literally I guess,” Johnson said. “
Although multiple players exchanged contact, no outright punches were thrown. Because the incident spilled into the baseline, both teams will await word on possible suspensions going forward.
“I think they handled themselves well,” Johnson said. “First, no one left the bench and guys were protecting their teammates… I think guys just try to defend themselves and the league should really take that into account. You’ve got to protect yourself and there’s a right way to do it.”
Boston head coach Doc Rivers questioned his team’s toughness following the loss.
“If I’m Brooklyn and the league, you’ve got to think we’re pretty soft right now,” Rivers said. “That (fighting) is not toughness.”
Rivers also conceded that Rondo “overreacted” and the frustration likely stemmed from “getting our tails kicked.” The Nets led by as many as 21 points.
According to referee James Capers, “Rondo initiated everything that proceeded after the foul.”
Without three starters, the Nets leaned on Andray Blatche, Reggie Evans, and Jerry Stackhouse. The bench shot 51.5 percent from the field and combined for 52 of the Nets’ 95 points.
Blatche finished with a double-double, scoring 17 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. Evans added 10 rebounds while Stackhouse scored 17 points (5-of-6 on three-pointers).
“We’re a very tight-knit team,” said Joe Johnson, who scored a game-high 18 points. “We’re like brothers, we’ve got each others back as you can see. Unfortunately we lost two of our key players and other guys stepped up”
The 17 points scored by Blatche and Stackhouse marked more than any Boston player. The Celtics shot 42.7 percent from the field and turned the ball over 17 times. The Nets also limited the Celtics to 1-of-7 shooting from behind the arc.
Avery Johnson attributed his team’s makeup to the composure they exhibited down the stretch.
“When you’ve got Reggie Evans and Gerald Wallace and Ketih Bogans and guys with those kinds of spirits those are rough guys,” Johnson said. “Fortunately nobody got injured.
“We’ve got some guys that just aren’t going to back down.”
Johnson emphasized his team’s physical nature in practice helped them prepare for the game they received from the Celtics.
The win moved the Nets to 10-4, which ties their best start in franchise history. The 2002-03 team also matched that mark but failed to move to 11-4.