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Jae Crowder could tell right from the tip that the Boston Celtics were focused.
They were also winners again, thanks to his big finish.
Crowder scored a career-high 25 points with a strong start and clutch plays down the stretch, and the Celtics beat the Brooklyn Nets 103-94 on Monday night to split a home-and-home series.
Crowder had 14 points in the first quarter, then was largely quiet until hitting a 3-pointer and adding a three-point play after Brooklyn got close in the final minutes. He surpassed his previous best of 24 points by making a pair of free throws with 16 seconds remaining.
"He's hit big shots for us all year. He's not afraid of the moment and he stepped up," coach Brad Stevens said.
Isaiah Thomas added 19 points for the Celtics, who rebounded from consecutive losses at home, including the Nets' 100-97 victory on Saturday. Evan Turner, starting for the injured Avery Bradley, had 12 points and 11 rebounds.
"We were locked in as a unit and it showed the first five minutes of the game," Crowder said. "We came out and we got into them and dictated the way the game was going to go."
Thaddeus Young had 23 points and a season-high 15 rebounds for the Nets, who have lost seven straight at home. Joe Johnson scored 21 points and Brook Lopez, the Eastern Conference player of the week, finished with 19.
The Nets lost starting point guard Jarrett Jack for the season with a torn ACL and small medial meniscus tear in his right knee in Saturday's victory. New starter Shane Larkin managed just four points and two assists.
Brooklyn committed 14 turnovers that led to 20 points, and coach Lionel Hollins was asked if that was due to the adjustment of playing without Jack.
"If you want to make excuses, yeah. There's always a rationalization for anything bad that happens, both on the court and in life if you choose to," Hollins said. "But I choose to say that we've got to keep working and getting better."
The Celtics lost at home last week to the Lakers and Nets, two of the NBA's worst teams, but seemed to leave that poor play behind with a 37-point first quarter that gave them a 15-point lead.
They were ahead by as much as 19 but never put away the Nets, who drew within five with 3 minutes left. Crowder then hit a 3 to steady the Celtics.
"We lost two that we should have won and it just feels good to be back on the winning side," forward Jared Sullinger said.
Celtics: Stevens inserted Kelly Olynyk into the starting lineup in place of Sullinger, hoping for more perimeter shooting with guard Avery Bradley sidelined by a sore left hip. Olynyk scored nine, while Sullinger had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Nets: The Nets wrapped up their season series with the Celtics before they've even played one game against fellow Atlantic Division rival Toronto, which visits Wednesday. ... Young had double-doubles in all four games against the Celtics. The last Nets player with four double-doubles in a season against one opponent was Deron Williams against the Knicks in 2012-13.
End of games could be tougher for the Nets without Jack, who hit shots that beat the Clippers and Warriors with under 2 seconds to play last season.
"We're going to miss that about Jarrett because Jarrett wasn't afraid to take the shot," Hollins said. "He certainly had enough confidence to believe that he could make them and he wanted the shot."
TAKING A TIMEOUT
Sullinger said he didn't join the huddle during a timeout in the second half of Saturday's game because he was "blowing off steam." Asked what upset him, Sullinger said: "A lot of things. It was just a lot of things going on, especially the way the game was going. So I just tried to refrain myself from snapping, regardless of whatever happened."
Celtics: Host Detroit on Wednesday.
Nets: Host Toronto on Wednesday.
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