NEWARK, N.J. -- Whatever the reason, the Boston Celtics love to turn up the heat and volume on their opponents after halftime, especially when they face the New Jersey Nets.
The Celtics held the Nets to 13 points in the third period and clinched an Eastern Conference playoff berth with a 94-82 win Saturday.
Kevin Garnett scored 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds and Avery Bradley added 18 points, including three clutch 3-pointers in the third quarter.
On Jan. 4, the Celtics held the Nets to a season-low 12 third-quarter points en route to an 89-70 victory.
The Celtics (35-25) hold a four-game lead over the Philadelphia 76ers and the New York Knicks for first place in the Atlantic Division with six games remaining. The winner of the Atlantic Division earns the No. 3 seed in the playoffs that begin next month.
After the game was tied at 48-48 at halftime, courtesy of a 31-foot Gerald Green bomb at the buzzer, the Celtics put the clamps to the Nets, limiting the Nets to just 24 percent shooting (6-of-25) and just 1-of-8 from 3-point range.
"I really thought we started to play better at the end of the second quarter with the second unit and that turned the game around," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "We started playing from there. Avery made those big threes for us, and they were huge because they stretched the game open for us. After halftime, I thought we played pretty well. We just did a very good job of limiting what they could do."
Bradley was the key contributor in the third quarter, scoring 11 points.
"We see him all the time," said veteran forward Paul Pierce, who contributed 17 points. "We know what he can do. It's just about him developing his confidence. I've said it over and over again that the more he plays and the more Coach has confidence in him, you'll see more from him. It's all about him developing confidence and how it's growing."
The Celtics limited the Nets to just 11-of-47 shooting and 34 points in the second half.
"The defense finally kicked in during the second half," Pierce said. "We rebounded the ball well, and everyone did a good job of stretching the defense."
Brandon Bass chipped in 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Celtics.
After defeating the Sixers on the road Friday night, the Nets fell at home once again. They are 9-21 at Prudential Center; only Charlotte and New Orleans have worse home marks. The Nets (22-39) have three games remaining in New Jersey; they move to Brooklyn next season.
"It was a pretty good first half for us," Nets coach Avery Johnson said. "We had some decent momentum going into halftime, but again, it was about us trying to figure out this Celtic team in the third quarter. I thought we started well, but then they kicked into another gear on us. We just couldn't score. Had we continued to score like we did in the first half, we would have been able to maintain ourselves. But they got a lead, got a little bit of a cushion and we could not get it turned around."
Green paced the Nets with 15 points, and MarShon Brooks added 13. Deron Williams had 12 points and 14 assists but shot just 3-of-12.
"You definitely have to credit their defense," Williams said. "They are a very good defensive team, and our offense wasn't very good. Our execution wasn't very good. They played harder, played better and just took us out of our rhythm. Then, we couldn't stop them on the other end."
Rookie Jordan Williams had 12 points and a career-best 14 rebounds off the bench.
The Nets played for the third straight game without starting small forward Gerald Wallace, who remains out with a strained hamstring.