NEW YORK, N.Y. - Rajon Rondo lost his cool, and any chance at history, in the second quarter when Boston last met Brooklyn.
This time, the second period featured some of the best basketball the Celtics have played this season.
Rondo scored 19 points in his first full game against the Nets this season, and the Celtics won 93-76 on Tuesday in another game with some heated moments between the division rivals.
Rondo, sidelined in the first meeting and thrown out of the second after shoving Nets forward Kris Humphries into the courtside seats, outplayed counterpart Deron Williams and helped the Celtics take control early.
"We moved the ball; we rebounded the ball," Rondo said. "They beat us pretty bad on the glass, so tonight we did an exceptional job on the glass, taking care of the defensive rebounds, and we got stops."
A month after the teams scuffled in Boston, there was another skirmish in the fourth quarter that resulted in four technical fouls. But that was the most fight the Nets put up in a disappointing performance on the national stage of the Christmas opener. They were never in the game after the first 20 minutes, and their fans headed to the exits with under 2 minutes left as a "Let's go Celtics!" chant broke out.
"It was a big game for us. It was a division rival. We were ready for a big game. It just didn't happen," Williams said.
Rookie Jared Sullinger tied a career high with 16 points and Jeff Green had 15 for the Celtics (14-13), who avoided falling under .500 with just their second victory in six games.
The Celtics took control with a 23-5 run in the second quarter of the opener of their four-game road trip. They had 11 assists on 13 baskets and outscored the Nets 34-18 in the period after dropping the previous two meetings.
"It was good to get off to this start. It was good to finally play from start to finish, especially with the way we've been playing against Brooklyn," said Paul Pierce, who had just eight points on 3-of-10 shooting. "So it was a well-balanced game, but I'm happy with the start of the trip."
Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez each scored 15 for the Nets, who have lost four of five. Struggling to find anything that worked, they played Lopez and fellow centre Andray Blatche together with three guards at one point, but Brooklyn shot just 41 per cent and committed 20 turnovers that led to 25 points.
Williams had only 10 points on 3-of-7 shooting and Joe Johnson, his partner in a high-priced backcourt, shot 4 of 14 for his 12 points.
"This one hurts. We didn't play our game. They beat us from the opening tip," Wallace said. "We didn't make shots. We turned the ball over too easy. Our defence just wasn't there tonight. We were not ourselves tonight."
Boston's Kevin Garnett had eight points and 10 rebounds on the day he tied Charles Oakley for 15th place on the NBA's career list with his 1,282nd game. He was also front and centre when things got testy.
Wallace was fouled with 9:31 remaining and appeared to hold onto Garnett's uniform to balance himself and not fall. Garnett was fine with that but then objected to how long Wallace hung on to his shorts, and they said something to each other as they tried to push themselves free. That led to technical fouls on the two, along with Blatche and Courtney Lee.
Garnett said he asked Wallace what he was doing but got no response.
"I don't know where in America you can (yank) somebody's pants off, or shorts off. I don't know what the hell was going on," Garnett said.
Sullinger delivered a flagrant foul on Wallace a few minutes later, but there was nothing further.
In the Nets' Nov. 28 victory in Boston, Rondo, Humphries and Wallace were ejected.
It was the second quarter of that game where things got away from the Celtics, and Rondo's frustrations soon followed when he shoved Humphries after the Nets forward fouled Garnett. That ruined the point guard's chance to extend what was then a 37-game streak with double-digit assists, tied for second-longest ever, by finishing with three. He had five assists and six rebounds Tuesday.
This time, the second period belonged to the guys in green.
With the Celtics down three, Green had six points in a 10-0 run that made it 36-29. After Johnson's basket, Boston answered with a 13-3 spurt. Jason Terry made a 3-pointer before Rondo converted a three-point play to push the Celtics' lead to 49-34 with 3:56 to go.
The Celtics opened a 21-point lead early in the third quarter and cruised from there. Terry finished with 11 points.
Notes: As with everyone playing on Christmas, players, coaches and referees wore green ribbons in tribute to the families of Sandy Hook Elementary School. ... Humphries was out with an abdominal strain and will be re-evaluated after the Nets return from Milwaukee. He had mostly been a starter but then didn't play at all Sunday against Philadelphia. ... Feeling Avery Bradley isn't ready yet, Celtics coach Doc Rivers decided not to bring the guard on the road trip so he can continue working his way back from shoulder surgery in Boston. Rivers said the shoulder is strong but that Bradley has had only 2 1/2 practices.