WHAT IT MEANS: The Celtics are in a class of their own. Meanwhile, the Nets may have taken a step back. For the second straight game, the Nets struggled to score. And not even the return of point guard Devin Harris could save them in that department. Boston -- on the strength of a typical dominant defensive effort -- rolled to a 100-75 blowout victory over lowly New Jersey Sunday afternoon at the Prudential Center, sending the droves of fans sporting Celtics green home happy. And that must’ve made the Nets’ fans in attendance even more miserable. As if their team’s dismal performance on the court didn’t hurt enough.
THE DIFFERENCE: The Nets came into Sunday ranked 28th in the NBA in scoring (94.2 ppg) and 25th in field-goal percentage (.440). And playing Boston wasn’t going to help those numbers. The Celtics (16-4), who entered Sunday’s matchup as the fifth-best defensive team in the NBA, allowing around 92 points per game, limited the Nets (6-15) to just 37.5 percent shooting, a game after they connected on a season-worst 31.9 percent of their shots in a 91-84 overtime loss to the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday night.
TURNING POINT: The second quarter -- all 12 minutes of it -- proved to be reason for the Nets’ demise. The Nets were outscored 30-12 in the quarter and watched as a two-point deficit swelled by halftime. The Celtics put on a defensive clinic, especially in the half court, limiting New Jersey to just five five goals on 19 attempts (four on jumpers and one in transition). Meanwhile, Boston executed, shooting it at 55 percent from the floor.
STAR OF THE GAME: Did anyone on the Nets deserve the honor? Not really. But we’ll give it to backup floor general Jordan Farmar, who had his third consecutive strong outing, dropping in a team-high 16 points on 6-for-10 shooting in 27 minutes. Farmar had averaged 22.0 points and 9.5 assists per game while replacing Harris, who was out nursing a sprained right knee, in the starting five. Point guard Nate Robinson filled in admirably for the injured Rajon Rondo, filling up the stat sheet to the tune of a game-high 21 points, six assists and six rebounds in a tad over 30 minutes.
WHERE’S BROOK?: For the second straight game, Brook Lopez was nonexistent. After being called out by Avery Johnson for grabbing just two rebounds in the Nets’ overtime loss to the Bobcats, Lopez was a non-factor once again. He scored just five points on 2-for-6 shooting in 21 minutes. He didn’t talk to reporters after Friday night’s game -- and we’re expecting that streak to continue.
UP NEXT: A two-game road trip. The Nets will take on the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday and the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday. Then they’ll fly home and face the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday. The Hawks have won five straight after losing to the Nets in overtime, 107-101, on Nov. 23 before losing to the Miami Heat on Saturday. Atlanta will be playing New Jersey in the second game of a back-to-back. The Hawks play at Orlando on Monday. The Mavericks have been one of the surprise teams in the NBA; not necessary because people thought they wouldn’t be good, but this good? Dallas is currently third in the league in points allowed (92.2). And Dirk Nowitizki (24.9 ppg, good for fifth in the NBA in scoring) is having an MVP caliber season.