BOSTON – Doc Rivers wants the Boston Celtics to be tough, not violent.

The message came too late for Rajon Rondo.

Rondo was ejected from Wednesday night’s game against the Nets when he retaliated for a hard foul against Kevin Garnett by shoving Brooklyn forward Kris Humphries into the courtside seats. Rondo, Humphries and Nets forward Gerald Wallace were ejected, and Brooklyn held on to win, 95-83.

“All that stuff, that’s not toughness,” Rivers said, calling his team soft. “That foul was a hard foul. It was an unnecessary foul. The play was over and then he pushed him down in the air. But I think that’s what they think of us: They think they can push you around.”

Joe Johnson scored 18 points, and Andray Blatche had 17 points and 13 rebounds as the Nets opened a 21-point first-half lead and took advantage of the loss of Rondo to win for the ninth time in 11 games.

Garnett had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Paul Pierce added 14 points for Boston. Rondo had three assists before he was kicked out, ending his streak at 37 games with double-digits, tied for second in NBA history.

The Nets led by eight after one quarter and scored 19 of the first 25 points in the second to make it 47-26. Boston cut the deficit to 14 points and trailed by 16 when Garnett took an off-balance jumper from the right baseline and Humphries leveraged him to the floor with his left arm.

Rondo trailed the play with a two-handed shove that sent Humphries into the courtside seats.

“Kevin could have gotten hurt. He’s in the air. He took a bad fall. And so Rondo saw that and probably reacted, and over-reacted, obviously,” Rivers said. “I can’t get in anybody’s head. But at that point we’re getting our tails kicked and we’re probably frustrated.”

Wallace soon entered the fray by shoving Garnett. Nets point guard Deron Williams said Humphries had scratches on his head and neck.

After the game, Humphries posted a picture of his scratched left shoulder with the comment: “Anyone know where I can quick get a Tetnis shot in Boston?”

While the rest of the players remained by their benches, coaches and officials tried to break up the skirmish.

“I think guys just try to defend themselves,” Nets Coach Avery Johnson said. “I think the league should really take that into account. Because I don’t know if guys can just walk away all the time. They’ve got to kind of protect themselves.”

The referees watched the replay before their verdict.

Rondo left the locker room and was unavailable for comment.

“We all back each other,” Garnett said. “We take a lot of pride in putting on this jersey. I know I do. This ain’t the Girl Scouts or the Boy Scouts. That’s what it is. It’s the NBA. You’ve got to get used to it.”

Rondo has had a history of petulance, including suspensions for chest-bumping a referee and throwing a ball at another.

“Usually he goes after the refs,” Rivers said. “This was another guy, so this was better.”