BOSTON — It’s not easy to win an NBA game when you turn the ball over 28 times and commit 28 fouls. But that’s exactly what the Boston Celtics did on Friday night.
“I remember Bobby Knight on ESPN saying that the team that has the most turnovers is going to lose,” forward Jared Sullinger said after his team led wire to wire and ended the Brooklyn Nets’ four-game winning streak with a sloppy 91-84 victory.
“I don’t know how you win a game turning the ball over so many times, honestly. Maybe we were just blessed enough that they had a bad shooting night.”
Did they ever.
The Nets, who turned the ball over just 14 times, shot 36 percent from the floor. They were 4-of-30 from 3-point range — including a meaningless trey in the final seconds — and 0-of-17 in the first half.
And the Celtics rebounded. They grabbed 51, including 12 by Sullinger in 26 minutes off the bench, to Brooklyn’s 28 — spoiling the second return to Boston by former Celtics great Paul Pierce, who joined big man Kevin Garnett in Brooklyn in an offseason trade.
“We turned them over enough,” Nets coach Jason Kidd said. “We can sit here and I can tell you we need to rebound the ball, but that’s something that we have problems with. But we had some great look that just didn’t go down for us tonight.”
Garnett missed the game with back spasms, which could not have helped the Brooklyn rebounding effort. Pierce, looking every bit like a 36-year-old tired veteran, scored 10 points. He has just 20 points in three games against his former team, going 6-of-24 from the floor.
As far as Friday night, Pierce said, “It just goes to show you it’s a make or miss league.”
Boston’s Rajon Rondo, who loves to play against other quality point guards, went against Deron Williams and had 20 points, nine assists and seven rebounds as the Celtics won for the second time in their last nine games.
Rondo turned the ball over seven times but played a strong 35-plus minutes as he continues his march back from knee surgery. The new captain elected not to talk after the game but others talked about him — especially about his new shooting touch. He nailed three 3-pointers in the first quarter.
“Coming into the season, I thought he did a terrific job working on his jumper and it’s paying off,” Sullinger said. “Now he’s starting to become the Rondo that we all know and he’s starting to do the things he did last year. With him getting that, on top of him shooting the ball, that’s a dangerous combination.”
The Nets, coming in above .500 for the first time this season, cut an 18-point deficit to two in the third quarter but then managed just two baskets in the first 7:31 of the fourth quarter.
“We responded when they came back, we shared the ball pretty well with our team and theirs, so overall it was at least a step in the right direction, except for sharing the ball with them,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said.
While the Nets could not shoot from outside and also missed their fair share of inside shots, the Celtics went 8-for-21 from behind the arc in the foul-filled game.
Forward Jeff Green scored 15 points, guard Jerryd Bayless had 14 points and six assists and rookie forward Kelly Olynyk added 13 points and seven boards for Boston (21-41).
Guard Joe Johnson and Williams led the Nets (30-30) with 21 and 20 points, respectively.
The Celtics used a 15-2 run at the start of the second quarter to take first-half control. The spurt included a 10-0 blast started and ended by two 3-pointer by guard Chris Babb, playing in only his third NBA game on a 10-day contract that is likely to be extended Monday.
NOTES: While F Kevin Garnett did not make the trip with the Nets because of back spasms, F-G Paul Pierce made his second return to TD Garden since being traded away. “There’ll still be a little of emotions every time I come into this gym, being here so many years, so many memories,” Pierce said before the game. Garnett, averaging 6.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game in his reduced role with his third NBA team, missed his fourth straight game. “He loves the game,” Pierce said. “He wants to be out there for his teammates. The key right now for us is for him to get healthy in this last stretch of games.” … Boston C Vitor Faverani underwent knee surgery and will miss the rest of the season. He has not played since Jan. 18. … The Celtics complete their five-game homestand against the Detroit Pistons on Sunday. The Nets host the Sacramento Kings. … C Jason Collins, also an ex-Celtic, began his second 10-day contract with the Nets. He did not play Friday.
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