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In the Celtics first look at their nomadic divisional rivals on Tuesday night, they fell short 97-96.

Brooklyn sat out their entire starting five, and Boston will have to wait a couple days to test their mettle against Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez.

With the score tied at 96 a-piece, Micah Downs fouled Stephen Dennis with five seconds remaining. Dennis missed both free throws, but Boston was unable to corral the rebound and Rob Kurz was whistled for the loose-ball foul. Tornike Shengelia hit one free-throw, giving the Nets a one-point lead with 3.6 seconds on the clock.

The inbounds alley-oop to Downs was knocked out of bounds, giving the Celtics 1.3 seconds to score. Kris Joseph's attempt at the buzzer was off, leaving the final score at 97-96.

Largely battling the Nets' second unit, Paul Pierce put up 20 points in the first half, en route to his game-high 29 in just 27 minutes. The captain is clearly looking a lot more ready for this season than 2011-12.

Jared Sullinger, who earned another start, gained experience guarding one of the more athletic big men in the NBA while surrendering 23 points to new Net, Andray Blatche. Still Sullinger was impressive in his own right, hauling in nine boards, four offensively, to go along with eight points. The battle between he and Brandon Bass for power forward minutes continued, as Bass put in eight points on 4-of-6 shooting.

Courtney Lee impressed with his speed, outrunning Rajon Rondo (11 assists) on a few fast-breaks. He finished with 13 points and was a plus-19 for the night. Joining him in double figures was Jeff Green, who came off the bench to tally 14 points. The big take-away from Green was his ability to take the ball to the rim and get to the line, where he hit on 7-of-8.

Kevin Garnett, who sat out Monday's game, returned to play 14 minutes of stellar defense. Garnett swatted a few shots impressively and scored eight points.

Doc Rivers took the second half off, remaining in the locker room after the intermission. This could possibly be a strategy to allow his assistants a chance to coach in his absence. In the case Rivers is ejected or ill, the duty falls on them to lead the Celtics. Still it was Rondo who appeared to be diagramming the final plays of the game.

Prior to the opening tip, it was announced that the Celtics had released both Dionte Christmas and Jamar Smith. This could foreshadow the Celtics second-round pick, Joseph earning a spot on the 15-man roster.

The Celtics fall to 1-4 on the preseason, while the Nets improve to 3-0. Boston will continue their preseason slate with a trip to the new Barclays Center on Thursday night for the back-end of a home and home against the Nets.

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You can follow Mike Walsh on Twitter @3rdStringWalsh

Walsh 10/16/2012 10:08:00 PM Edit
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