NEW YORK -- That beautiful new Brooklyn arena and those slick black uniforms are getting the Nets plenty of attention.
The Boston Celtics sure noticed, and they delivered a reminder Thursday night that the road to the Atlantic Division title doesn’t run through Atlantic Avenue just yet.
Paul Pierce scored 18 points despite briefly leaving with an ankle injury, and the Celtics spoiled the Nets’ return to national TV with a 115-85 exhibition victory.
"Kevin Garnett came out tonight and (Rajon) Rondo and Pierce with that look on their face like even though it’s a preseason game, we want to send a message," Nets coach Avery Johnson said.
Courtney Lee also had 18 for the Celtics in a rematch of the Nets’ 97-96 victory in Boston two nights earlier. The Nets rallied to pull that one out even while resting their starters, but they fell too far behind in this one for a comeback.
Jason Terry made all five of his 3-point attempts for 15 points and Pierce was 4 for 4 behind the arc as the Celtics shot 56.5 percent overall from the field and 11 of 19 (58 percent) on 3-pointers.
Garnett said the Celtics’ inspired play was because of their dismal effort in a 107-75 loss to Philadelphia on Monday, not because they were trying to put the new kids on the block, as Johnson called the Nets, back in line.
Brook Lopez scored 14 points for the Nets, who lost for the first time in four preseason
The game was televised by TNT, the Nets’ first national TV appearance since a March 30, 2011, game at the Knicks. But while the Nets’ $1 billion new arena and upgraded roster are earning them plenty of recognition, their game doesn’t look quite ready for prime time, yet.
Still, they earned praise before the game from Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who said the Nets’ rebirth in Brooklyn was "terrific."
But Rivers’ team has ruled the Atlantic for five years, and Pierce and the Celtics seemed to issue a warning they plan to keep it that way.
Rondo had 14 points and nine assists, and Garnett finished with 14 points for the Celtics, who had been 0-3 against NBA teams. Their only preseason victory before Thursday was during their two-game European trip.
The Celtics forced three turnovers and hit their first four shots while racing to a 9-0 start. Boston led 27-15 after one and extended the lead to 19 on a couple of occasions in the second before taking a 59-44 lead into the locker room. The Celtics shot 56.5 percent in the first half.
The only negative for the Celtics in the first half was when Pierce hurt his left ankle after making a 3-pointer in front of his own bench. He went to the back to get the ankle re-taped and returned to start the second half, even shaking off another fall when Johnson pushed him out of bounds on a fast break for a flagrant foul.
Brooklyn trailed by 14 early in the third before Boston ran off eight straight, opening a 73-51 bulge on Garnett’s jumper with 6:29 left in the period. The Nets got back within 14 after three before the Celtics blew it open again.
Celtics forward Brandon Bass sat out the second half with a sore right ankle. Reserve guard Leandro Barbosa, who signed with the Celtics on Thursday, was not available due to pending visa paperwork.