Playing the first of three straight road games didn't help the Boston Celtics, as they try and get back on track tonight against the New Jersey Nets in the continuation of a four-game trek.
The Celtics opened the tough stretch with Friday's 84-79 loss against the Toronto Raptors and a late rally fell short. Paul Pierce scored a team-best 18 points, Avery Bradley netted 15 and Kevin Garnett ended with 13 points and 10 rebounds for Boston, which had won four straight and nine of 11 games.
"We didn't have it in the second half," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "It's kind of my fault. I contributed to it by giving our starters too much rest and kind of threw off their rhythm."
Rajon Rondo had eight points and 12 assists, and has handed out 10-plus assists in 20 consecutive games. Rondo was coming off his sixth triple-double in a previous win versus Atlanta for the Celtics, who could have clinched a playoff berth with a win coupled by a Milwaukee loss at Detroit. The Bucks downed the Pistons, 113-97, at The Palace.
Boston is three games ahead of both Philadelphia and New York for the Atlantic Division lead, and is fourth in the Eastern Conference standings -- three games behind playoff-bound Indiana. The Celtics are 13-16 away from home and will also visit the Bobcats and Knicks on the road swing.
Celtics sharpshooter Ray Allen did not play for a second straight game because of a sore right ankle and is questionable for tonight. Allen missed six straight games from March 23-April 1.
New Jersey will try to spoil Boston's plans on clinching a postseason spot much like it did last night with a 95-89 victory at Philadelphia.
Gerald Green scored 23 points and MarShon Brooks had 22 for the Nets, who have won three of four and six of their last nine games. The loss put the Sixers into a tie with New York for the last two postseason spots in the East.
"We were really out of sorts the last time we played them," Nets coach Avery Johnson said of the Sixers. "We had a chance to break the film down, and fortunately we made some shots."
Kris Humphries added 18 points and 13 rebounds, while Jordan Williams scored 13 points in the win. The Nets will kick off a three-game homestand Saturday versus Boston, Miami and New York, and are 9-20 in the Garden State.
The Nets lost the first two meetings with Boston this season -- both in Beantown -- and 17 of the past 19 contests in this series.