While Celtics players and fans contemplated a potential punishment for guard Rajon Rondo following a second-quarter fight in Brooklyn’s 95-83 win over the Celtics Wednesday night at TD Garden, Nets coach Avery Johnson defended his team’s actions in the scuffle.
Rondo and Nets forward Kris Humphries were ejected for carrying their pushing and shoving into the stands following a foul by Humphries on Boston’s Kevin Garnett with 25.9 seconds remaining in the first half. Brooklyn’s Gerald Wallace was assessed a technical foul, his second of the game, and was ejected, while Garnett was charged with a technical.
“There was a lot of swings going on down there,” said Johnson. “I think guys were going to try to rescue their teammates. That’s what kind of team we have. We’ve got guys that, if you’re in an alley fight, we’ve got a lot of guys on our team that you’d like to be in there with.”
The official statement from crew chief James Capers was that Rondo “initiated everything that proceeded after the foul.” The league had yet to make a decision on further disciplinary action, but Nets players agreed with Capers’s assessment that Rondo was the culprit.
“We looked at it at halftime,” said guard Deron Williams, who finished with 8 points. “It wasn’t a bad foul. KG fell hard. He didn’t push him out of the play or anything.”
On his team’s retaliation, Williams added, “We never back down. Rondo went up and grabbed [Humphries] at his neck. He has scratches on his neck, on his back.”
Humphries left the Garden without speaking to reporters, but shortly afterward he tweeted a picture of his back and neck, with visible long, red marks, saying, “Anyone know where I can quick get a Tetnis [sic] shot in Boston?”
Nets players said they were using the brawl as a rallying cry. The team has not won an Atlantic Division title since the 2005-06 season, but a move from New Jersey to Brooklyn and several offseason acquisitions have the team in position to challenge the Celtics’ string of five straight division titles. Toronto was the last team besides Boston to win the Atlantic, in 2006-07.
Said Nets reserve center Andray Blatche, who turned in a surprising performance with 17 points and 13 rebounds, “That’s what family and brotherhood is all about. That was one of the biggest things I’ve seen so far, where we all have each other’s backs on the court.”
Several Brooklyn players took exception to Rondo’s actions. Rondo has been ejected from a game three times in the last 10 months. Most recently, he was suspended for Game 2 of a 2012 playoff series against the Hawks for bumping official Marc Davis. He was suspended two games for throwing a ball at another official on Feb. 19.
“It’s always surprising when you see something like that, the hit you can take when you lose a couple games’ pay,” said Nets veteran Jerry Stackhouse.
“I think [Rondo] has a little bit of a history. Hopefully when they start laying down the levies of what happened there they take that into account.”
Johnson said he did not think any of his players would face disciplinary action. Williams and a couple of other Nets spent a few minutes in the locker room after the game discussing what they were supposed to do if faced with a similar situation in the future. When a reporter suggested just falling backward and pulling your hands back in toward your body, Williams said, “Maybe if guys haven’t been in a fight, that’s what they would do.”
Said Stackhouse, “We feel good about it, even though we don’t know what the repercussions will be. If something happens on the court, one of our guys will take care of it.”
With the win Brooklyn improved to 10-4, tied with the Knicks for the best record in the division. The Celtics (8-7) next face the Nets in Brooklyn on Christmas Day.