Nets-Celtics Preview

The Associated Press

The Brooklyn Nets have a chance to make another early season statement in the Atlantic Division.

This time, however, the five-time defending champion Boston Celtics might have something to say about it.

The Nets will try to build off a win over their new city rivals and make it two in a row against the Celtics as they travel to Boston on Wednesday night.

Brooklyn (9-4) is coming off perhaps its biggest win since moving from New Jersey, a 96-89 overtime victory over New York on Monday.

It gave the Nets a share of first place with the Knicks, marking the latest they've been atop the division since Jan. 23, 2007 -- before Boston began its stranglehold of the Atlantic.

"It shows how much we've improved and I think we're going to keep getting better each and every game," center Brook Lopez said.

Lopez had 22 points and 11 rebounds on Monday for his second double-double of the season. He's scored at least 20 points in seven of his last nine games, averaging 20.9 on 55.9 percent shooting during that span.

The fifth-year center has been one of the fastest starters in the NBA, ranking third in the first quarter at 7.9 points per game on 67.2 percent shooting after scoring eight against the Knicks.

While Deron Williams has been slowed by a sprained right wrist and shot just 6 of 17 from the field, he finished with 16 points and a season-high 14 assists.

The Nets, who lead the league in defensive scoring (91.3), have been dominating in that area late in games. They haven't allowed an opponent to score more than 17 fourth-quarter points in each of their last three contests.

Brooklyn also limited the Celtics to 18 points in the final 12 minutes to rally past visiting Boston 102-97 in the teams' first meeting on Nov. 15.

This time, Boston (8-6) will have to find a way to slow the Nets' trio of Lopez, Williams and Joe Johnson after the trio totaled 67 points in the first meeting.

The Celtics, though, aren't playing at the top of their game defensively, allowing opponents to shoot 50.9 percent in last four games and yielding 100 points or more in five of six.

They're third in the NBA in field-goal percentage (47.8), but rank 27th in the defensive field-goal percentage (46.3).

"We're a defensive team that can score the basketball,'' forward Kevin Garnett said. ''We always have been. As long as Doc's going to be here, that's how it's going to be.''

Still, Boston looks for its third consecutive victory after Garnett and Paul Pierce carried the team past Oklahoma City and Orlando in back-to-back wins.

Garnett finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds, while Pierce added 23 points as the Celtics defeated Orlando 116-110 in overtime on Sunday.

Rajon Rondo looks to surpass John Stockton with his 38th consecutive game with 10 assists or more after finishing with 15 points and 16 assists against the Magic. He would then trail only Magic Johnson, who established the record with 46 in the 1983-84 season.

Rondo gets his first look at Brooklyn after missing the last game with a sprained right ankle. He averaged 13.3 assists, 8.7 points and 3.0 steals in three wins against the Nets in 2011-12.

Pierce scored 22 points and Garnett had 14 in the first meeting for the Celtics, who have won nine of 10 home games against the Nets.

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