Celtics carry hot streak into road meeting with Nets

The Boston Celtics hope to ride their hot streak down I-95 South on Thursday night when they take on the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center.

The Celtics have won three in a row, and five of their last six, highlighted by a 98-93 home victory Wednesday against the Utah Jazz.

Wednesday's victory came at a price, a steep one.

Point guard Rajon Rondo extended his streak of consecutive games with 10 or more assists to 32, but he sprained his right ankle and left in the third quarter. Rondo came back to the bench, but did not return to the game.

Leandro Barbosa stepped in for Rondo and scored 16 points in under 23 minutes of action. He had three assists and no turnovers, and with Rondo's availability for Thursday night in question, head coach Doc Rivers had to be happy with his options.

"Somebody has to step up and we have to figure it out," said Rivers. "Tonight was a great example that we did that. We had other options. He's (Barbosa) earned it. He deserves to play."

The Celtics, who only committed nine turnovers on Wednesday, pushed their mark to 3-0 since Rivers inserted Jason Terry, who might see some of Rondo's minutes at the point, and Brandon Bass into the starting lineup.

The Nets have been on a great run themselves. They've won three straight after an embarrassing 30-point loss in Miami to the Heat on Nov. 7. They're 3-1 at the Barclays Center, but this is clearly their toughest challenge since the Heat.

"It's a big game for us," said All-Star point guard Deron Williams. "The last couple have been against what you'd call non-playoff teams. It's a good test for us. The last test we had was Miami and that didn't go too well."

During this three-game winning streak, the Nets held the Magic to 68 and 74 points in two games. Brooklyn has surrendered over 100 points in their four other games. They rank ninth in fewest points allowed, but that stat is tainted by the pathetic output of Orlando.

Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez are doing their part, combining to average 50.7 ppg. The Nets have been without the services of Gerald Wallace, who sprained his left ankle in the season-opener. He is still listed as day- to-day and MarShon Brooks also sprained his left ankle and has missed the last three contests, but he's listed as probable for Thursday night.

The Nets toppled the Cleveland Cavaliers Tuesday night, 114-101. The above- mentioned trio teamed for 74 points and the Nets shot 54.5 percent from the floor.

The Celtics have owned this matchup in recent history, winning 18 of the last 20, including all three meetings last season.