NEWARK, N.J. — The Celtics were going through their final warm-ups prior to facing the Nets on Sunday when All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo walked over to head coach Doc Rivers to give him the bad news.
“It was literally about two seconds before the game was going to start,” Rivers said of when he learned that Rondo couldn’t play through hamstring and foot injuries. “I usually don’t like that. It was really a last-second cancellation.”
Rivers turned to back-up point guard Nate Robinson and told him he was starting.
“I just go about things the same way,” said Robinson, who scored a game-high 21 points and dished off for six assists in the Celtics’ 100-75 rout, the team’s seventh straight win. “I just play the same way as if I was coming off the bench.”
Robinson scored eight of his points in the first 4 minutes of the game. His 3-pointer with 7:48 left in the first period gave Boston an 11-8 lead that they would never relinquish.
“When Nate’s with the starters, he’s like the after guard, the afterthought,” Rivers said. “You can’t go after him because everyone else is out there. We really don’t make a big thing about when someone is out with an injury. We just have to go out there and play. Nate was great, very solid offensively. When he’s going like that, he gives us another shooter.”
The Celtics then pulled away by virtue of a 30-12 second quarter.
“We had a terrible second quarter and could never recover,” said Nets head coach Avery Johnson, whose team fell for the fourth straight time. “They jumped all over us in the second quarter and we never recovered. They looked like a championship team out there. They didn’t come here looking to mess around. They took it to us. We were on our heels the whole game.”
The Celtics (16-4), who connected on nine of their first 13 attempts from the floor, also received 16 points from Glen Davis off the bench and 13 points each from Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. Garnett also collected a game-high 14 rebounds.
The Nets (6-15) were led by Jordan Farmar’s 16 points. Rookie Derrick Favors and Anthony Morrow had 10 points each for New Jersey.
After a closely played first quarter that saw Boston hold a 27-25 lead, the Celtics put the game away with that totally dominant second quarter. The Celtics scored the first six points of the period, keying a 10-2 run spearheaded by Marquis Daniels, who scored six of the 10.
The Celtics then put the game away with an 11-0 run over a 3-minute span, with Davis scoring four in that run, giving the Celtics a commanding 48-29 lead with 3:17 left before intermission.
“I was having a tough time with the early game, but Marquis was the one who pulled me along,” Davis said. “He made sure I was ready to play.”
Davis put a capper on the lopsided first half when he nailed a long, off-balance jumper, giving the Celtics the 57-37 lead at the break. The Celtics then increased the lead in the third period, turning the game into a total blowout, taking an 80-53 lead into the final quarter.
Rivers pulled his starters at the beginning of the fourth quarter, giving his bench a chance to finish out the one-sided affair.
“We needed to give our guys a blow,” Rivers said. “This is a team that needed some rest.”
NOTES: It was a homecoming of sorts for two members of the Celtics contingent. Former Nets head coach Lawrence Frank, now a Boston assistant, is a native of Teaneck, and Shaquille O’Neal was born in Newark. … O’Neal left the game after playing 11 minutes in the first half with a sore right calf and did not return. He had three points and four rebounds. “He was hurting before the game, but he wanted me to know that he could go,” Rivers said. … Terrence Williams, the Nets’ first-round draft pick last year who was sent to the D-League as punishment for his persistent tardiness, has registered a triple-double in each of his first two games with the Springfield Armor. There is no timetable for Williams’ return to New Jersey.