Entering the middle contest of three games in three days, the Celtics hope to get back on track and continue their recent success over the Nets on Saturday night.
Boston (34-25) had won four in a row against Indiana, Philadelphia, Miami and Atlanta - all either playoff-bound or contenders in the Eastern Conference - before shooting 37.5 percent in Friday’s 84-79 road loss to a Toronto team out of the postseason hunt.
Playing their first of back-to-back-to-back road games and second straight contest without injured guard Ray Allen (sore ankle), the Atlantic Division-leading Celtics could not overcome a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit. Paul Pierce scored 18 points while Kevin Garnett added 13 points and 10 rebounds for Boston, which is fourth in the East, and three games ahead of New York and Philadelphia atop the Atlantic.
“Right now we have a lot to play for, we are playing for playoff positioning and that has to be the mindset regardless of who steps on the court,” Pierce said. “So with the possibility of moving up to the three seed these are must-win games for us.
“It’s crazy because we have three games in a row. We should have come out with better urgency (in the second half).”
Garnett has totaled 34 points and 22 rebounds while shooting 16 of 20 to help the Celtics win both of their previous meetings with New Jersey (22-38) this season by a combined 32 points to improve to 17-2 in the last 19 games in this series.
However, both matchups this season came in Boston. New Jersey snapped a nine-game home skid to the Celtics with an 88-79 win March 14, 2011, Boston’s last visit.
The Nets have four home games remaining before they say goodbye to the Prudential Center and head to their new home in Brooklyn next season. The NBA’s Board of Governors approved the relocation Friday.
“I know we’re all looking forward to being a part of Brooklyn and being a part of that project,” coach Avery Johnson said. “I think it’s going to help. We’re the only team that’s in transition like we are. There’s a lot of energy and anticipation of us moving there.”
New Jersey is a dismal 9-20 at home, but improved to 13-18 on the road with a 95-89 victory at Philadelphia on Friday. Gerald Green scored a team-high 23 points off the bench, MarShon Brooks had 22 and Kris Humphries added 18 points with 13 rebounds as the Nets prevailed by outscoring the 76ers 32-23 in the fourth quarter.
“No feeling sorry for ourselves,” Johnson said. “We played hard.”
Humphries is averaging 18.0 points in his last three games, but was held to six in a 107-94 loss at Boston on March 2.