Andray Blatche and Joe Johnson each scored 21 points in the Brooklyn Nets' 102-93 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night, making Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett winners in their first matchup with Doc Rivers.
Brook Lopez had 16 points and Deron Williams 15 for the Nets, who won their season-high third straight. Pierce scored 10 points off the bench in his second game back from a broken hand.
Chris Paul scored 20 points but had just two assists as the Clippers lost for the first time in nine games this season when he reaches 20.
Pierce and Garnett went 2-0 in a reunion tour of ex-Celtics this week. They helped the Nets beat Boston here Tuesday, then Rivers made an emotional return to Boston on Wednesday. Rivers said before this game he knew it would be fun because of how competitive his two former stars are.
It finally rubbed off on their new team, as the Nets were much more fired up than in some of their poor performances during an 8-14 start. Garnett had just two points but played rugged defense on Blake Griffin, shaking off coach Jason Kidd's attempt to sub him out in the second quarter after picking up a third foul. He was whistled for his fourth in the third quarter that was so hard officials originally called it a flagrant before overturning it when replay showed he'd actually hit Griffin in the upper arms, not the face.
Rivers coached Pierce and Garnett to the 2008 NBA title, but wasn't interested in remaining in Boston after last season once it became clear the Celtics were heading toward a rebuilding era. The Celtics let him go to Los Angeles in exchange for a first-round pick. The Clippers wanted Garnett, too — and maybe even Pierce — but the teams couldn't find a way to make a deal that would've been legal under NBA rules.
Pierce and Garnett were eventually dealt to the Nets, and Rivers remains close with the duo. Garnett took a detour during his intense pre-jump ball ritual to stop at the Clippers bench for a hug with Rivers and his assistants from Boston. Pierce and Rivers had a couple of chats and chuckles during the game.
Both sat out Nets' loss in Los Angeles on Nov. 16, along with Williams and Lopez. The Nets are healthier now and finally playing good basketball.
Griffin had 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Clippers, who were a step behind on the sixth stop of their seven-game road trip that wraps up Saturday at Washington.
The Clippers jumped to an 11-2 lead and were ahead 25-20 after one quarter, but the Nets controlled the latter stages of the half. Brooklyn outscored Los Angeles 19-7 over the final 4:41, turning a 37-all tie into a 56-44 lead, the final basket drawing oohs from the crowd when Williams shook free of Paul with a crossover dribble and into the lane for a layup.
Third quarters have been a struggle for the Nets, but the players and fans throughout the arena were on their feet when Blatche made three straight jumpers late in the period. The Nets gave him the ball for one final chance, but he was off a last attempt and they took an 83-62 lead to the fourth.
NOTES: Williams improved to 15-5 against Paul, his friend and U.S. Olympic teammate who was chosen one pick after him in the 2005 draft. ... Stephen Jackson was credited with his first basket since signing with the Clippers on a goaltending violation in the third quarter. The Clippers signed the veteran forward Tuesday and he was scoreless in 12 minutes Wednesday.
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