During the last two seasons it seemed like Nets coach Avery Johnson's favorite postgame word was "battled."
As in "we battled" or "they battled."
On most nights, it was true. They'd get down 20, cut it to 10 and lose by 15.
But when Johnson said it after Wednesday night's Beantown Brawl, "they battled" had a different feel.
For the first time in a long time, the word "battled" had real meaning.
"We never back down. It's not being tough guys or anything," Nets point guard Deron Williams said on YES Network after his team overcame the second-quarter ejections of Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace following a shoving match with Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett to handily defeat the Boston Celtics, 95-83.
Johnson added "They battled and they fought hard, literally I guess. And they just didn't give in. They didn't give in to any adversity tonight."
The Nets were already up 16 (they led by as many as 21) with 29.5 seconds left in the first half when Humphries fouled Kevin Garnett as he was shooting a jumper. KG hit the parquet floor hard, which prompted Rondo to go after Humphries, shoving the Nets power forward toward the stands. In self-defense, Humphries ripped Rondo's jersey over the Celtics point guard's head.
KG and Wallace got tangled up away from the main skirmish. Eventually, tensions subsided, and technicals were handed out like a hockey melee had just occurred: Humphries and Rondo were kicked out, while Wallace picked up his second T; KG his first.
But despite losing two starters for the duration of the second half, the Nets (10-4) kept their composure the rest of the way, picking up their fourth straight victory in the process. According to YES, Brooklyn is 6-2 against playoff teams from 2011-12.
On Wednesday night, the Nets' bench combined for 52 points. As a team, Brooklyn hit 10 3-pointers, while holding a fourth straight opponent under 90 points.
With Brook Lopez in foul trouble all evening long, Andray Blatche rose to the occasion and delivered 17 points and 13 rebounds. Joe Johnson, who went 3-for-12 on Monday night in the Battle of New York, produced a game-high 18 points, while age-defying Jerry Stackhouse connected on five corner triples.
"That's what family and brotherhood is all about, that was probably the biggest thing I've seen so far," Blatche said. "We all had each other's backs."
Nets GM Billy King's goal during the offseason was to "build a team," and this particular victory was the definition of a team win.
Just don't call it a statement win.
"I don't think you can necessarily make a statement in November," Johnson said on YES Network. "But I think with our situation a lot of what you see behind the scenes and what you guys are starting to see ... I think people are starting to take notice."
The Celtics have won the Atlantic Division five straight times.
But the Nets are 2-0 against them now this season, and are clearly gunning for the top spot in 2012-13.