Boston (47-17) at Brooklyn (21-43)

By NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO, STATS Writer Monday, Mar 14, 2011 Tipoff: 7:00 pm EDT Mon Mar 14, 2011

A record-setting defensive effort gave the Boston Celtics back some momentum. They’ve had plenty of it against the New Jersey Nets in recent years.

The visiting Celtics attempt to stay alone atop the Eastern Conference by sweeping the season series from the Nets, who are expected to have Deron Williams(notes) back on the floor Monday night.

Boston (47-17), which has already clinched a playoff berth, leads the East by one-half game over second-place Chicago. The Celtics reclaimed sole possession of the conference lead Sunday by avoiding a three-game losing streak. They routed Milwaukee 87-56, setting a franchise record for fewest points allowed in the shot-clock era by limiting the Bucks to 31.4 percent shooting.

“I think playing defense perfectly is our goal,” said guard Ray Allen(notes), who had 17 points Sunday after being held to a season-low five in an 89-86 loss at Philadelphia two nights prior. “That’s what we shoot for, but a team can still score while you’re doing that.”

The Celtics have won 15 of 16 meetings with the Nets (21-43) dating to the 2006-07 season. They’ve taken all three matchups in 2010-11, holding New Jersey to a paltry 79.3 points per game.

Boston won the most recent contest 100-75 on Dec. 5 in Newark, limiting the Nets’ starters to 28 points.

Sweeping the season series won’t necessarily be a given with the return of Williams, who missed the last two games as his wife gave birth to their fourth child in Dallas.

The point guard is averaging 15.8 points and 15.2 assists in five games since the Nets acquired him from Utah last month. He’s averaged 17.2 points and 9.0 assists in his last nine meetings with Boston - all with the Jazz.

The Nets continued their recent improved play even without Williams, winning both games he missed to push their streak to four. They haven’t won five in a row since Dec. 28, 2007-Jan. 5, 2008.

Jordan Farmar(notes) had a season-high 24 points with seven assists starting in Williams’ place Friday as New Jersey erased a 20-point deficit in a 102-98 overtime home win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

“This is what you dream of, to play in the NBA … be the one making the plays, taking big shots,” Farmar said. “I just tried to step up for my teammates. Deron wasn’t here, had a beautiful addition to his family, so I got a chance to play and it was good for me, good for us.”

Center Brook Lopez(notes) has been excellent over his last five games, averaging 27.4 points while shooting 55.9 percent. He hasn’t been nearly as productive in the season series with Boston, scoring 13.0 points per game.

Boston’s Paul Pierce(notes) scored 31 points in a 94-80 home win over the Nets on Feb. 16. However, he’s totaled 25 points over his last two games overall.

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Monday, Mar 14