After a back-and-forth battle, the Celtics dropped the game 102-97.
Offensively, Rajon Rondo wasn't really missed until the fourth quarter, when the Celtics were unable to score on multiple consecutive possessions.
Paul Pierce had an opportunity to bring Boston back to within one with 30 seconds to go, but uncharacteristically missed two free-throws. He followed it up by drilling a three and hitting his next two from the line, but the Celtics never retook the lead.
Next it was Jason Terry's turn to miss two freebies, and after that the night was all but over.
Boston's starting point guard missed Thursday's game after injuring his ankle the night before against the Utah Jazz. This game was going to be a real test for the Celtics, as they rely so heavily on Rondo to do so much on the floor.
The offense was up to the task through three quarters, but faltered in an 18-point fourth. The defense was another story, as the Celtics allowed 59 first half points to Brooklyn and trailed by nine at the break.
Deron Williams helped push that lead to double-digits at the outset of the third quarter. From there, Pierce did what leaders do. He sensed what was needed and put together an 11-point third quarter to get the Celtics back into the game.
Triggered by a Pierce three and layup sequence, the Celtics went on a run to earn them a five-point lead going into the final frame.
Joe Johnson was able to knock down two jumpers while the Celtics offense was stymied towards the end of the fourth quarter.
After finally getting some stops, Jeff Green hit a big three-pointer from the corner to bring his team to within one, 93-92. Unfortunately, missed free-throws ruined the Celtics chance to overtake the Nets.
Pierce finished with 22 points to lead the Celtics, but did not have a good fourth quarter. He was shown by the cameras on the bench with his teammates, taking responsibility for the loss.
In Rondo's absence, Leandro Barbosa earned his first start of the season. The veteran guard continued his stellar play with 17 points.
Courtney Lee found some rhythm off the bench in scoring 13 points on 4-of-8 shooting. He also grabbed a team-high nine rebounds.
In a disturbing ongoing trend, the Nets tallied 14 offensive rebounds in the first half. That gifted them with a ton of points off extra possessions. Boston allowed only four in the second half, but the team needs to do a better job of boxing out early on. Had they not dug themselves into a hole that way, they may have had an easier time getting out.
The Celtics fall to 5-4 on the season, but return to the TD Garden on Saturday night against the Toronto Raptors. Brooklyn improves to 5-2 on the season after handing the Celtics their second Atlantic Division loss.
You can follow Mike Walsh on Twitter @3rdStringWalshWalsh 11/15/2012 11:11:00 PM Tweet