BOSTON - Brooklyn coach Avery Johnson said November is too soon for his Nets to have pulled off a "statement" win over the Celtics Wednesday night.
But two things were clear coming out of this 95-83 Nets win: These guys can play, and they will stick together when times get tough.
They took the lead for good in the first quarter of this game, holding off any charges by the flat Celtics. And they also answered the bell when Rajon Rondo started a skirmish late in the second quarter that cost the Nets their two starting forwards and cost the Celtics the services of Rondo, whose streak of 37 straight games with double-figure assists came to an end.
"We're all together. We're all starting to get it. Our chemistry is coming together well and we're learning how to close out games," backup forward Andray Blatche said after collecting 17 points and 13 rebounds.
He helped the Nets, who were coming off an emotional Battle of the Burroughs win over the Knicks, to their fourth straight win and their ninth in the last 11 games.
Talking about the players standing up for Kris Humphries and each other when Rondo started the scuffle, Blatche said, "That's what family and brotherhood's all about. That was probably the biggest thing I've seen so far -- we all had each other's back out there on that court, and that's what we've gotta be about."
The win, which ended a four-game TD Garden losing streak for the franchise (all suffered by the NEW JERSEY Nets), moved the Nets to 10-4, tied with the Knicks for the Atlantic Division lead.
With the building missing hockey action, the puck-like fracas took place in the final minute of the first half.
Brooklyn's Humphries and Gerald Wallace, the starting forwards, and Rondo all wound up out of the game late in the second quarter. Both Humphries and Wallace were gone for their second technicals and Rondo for starting the fight (Humphries was also judged to be fighting).
The skirmish broke out when Humphries was guilty of a not-that-hard foul on Kevin Garnett with 26.2 seconds left in the first half. Humphries was getting a technical for the foul and was then jumped by a combination of Rondo and Jason Terry as the players spilled into the crowd under the basket. Rondo's shirt came off and Garnett threw what looked like a punch at Wallace, but turned out to just be flailing of his right arm.
Humphries got two T's and was gone, and Wallace, who had picked one up technical with 1:02 left, got a second and was gone. Garnett got a technical and Rondo was tossed, thus ending his assist streak.
"Rondo initiated everything that proceeded after the foul," said referee James Capers. "And when he and Humphries got into the stands, they are involved in a fight. Fighting is an automatic ejection."
Humphries appeared to be defending himself.
"Rondo went up and grabbed him - he grabbed him (on) his neck," said Brooklyn's Deron Williams, who had seven assists on a 3-for-12 shooting night. "He's got scratches on his neck, on his back."
The comment made by the referee would indicate Rondo will face disciplinary action from the league, perhaps even a suspension.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers, asked if was upset at Rondo, said, "Well, yeah, I don't think anybody should get thrown out of a game. We all have to keep our emotions, you know.
"I mean, hell, we didn't come to play; as a team, that was awful basketball-wise ... We're a soft team right now; we have no toughness. And that stuff's not toughness. All that stuff, that's not toughness."
Rivers had "no idea" whether his point guard will be suspended.
Said Garnett, who led Boston with 16 points and 10 rebounds and felt the Nets tried to establish "physicality" right from the start: "Just a hard foul. I thought the antics after it was a little bit extra but a hard foul."
Later, he said, "This ain't the Girl Scouts, this ain't the Boy Scouts. This is the NBA. That's what it is."
He also said this Celtics team has to develop pride on its home floor, where they're just 4-4.
Former Celtic Joe Johnson scored 18 points and had six assists, the ageless Jerry Stackhouse came off the bench with 17 points, and reserve Blatche and Reggie Evans (10 rebounds) helped the Nets pull down 17 offensive boards.
Brandon Bass scored 16 points and Paul Pierce 14 as the Celtics' two-game winning streak ended and they fell to 8-7. But Pierce scored seven of his points late and was 4-for-13 from the floor, 0-for-3 from 3-point range. (As a team the Celtics were 1-for-7 on 3-pointers, while Brooklyn was 10-for-24). Pierce was also 6-for-11 from the foul line, missing five of his first six after coming into the game having made 27 in a row at the line.
NOTES: Rondo's streak of consecutive games with double-digit assists ties John Stockton for the second-longest in league history. Magic Johnson's record of 46 straight is safe. ... Rivers got his first technical foul of the season with 7:25 left in the first quarter. ... The Celtics had a moment of silence before the game for Kevin McHale's daughter, Sasha, who recently passed away. ... The Nets opened a three-game road trip that continues in Orlando Friday night and ends at Miami Saturday night. The Celtics host Portland Friday night. ... While Rondo didn't play in the first meeting between the teams, neither did Brooklyn's Wallace, who was also out injured. ... In the crowd: Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman and the Celtics Development League Maine team.