NEW YORK — After a rough road trip put their playoff hopes in jeopardy, the Brooklyn Nets needed something good to happen when they got home.

It came in the third quarter, which is when D’Angelo Russell usually punishes the Celtics.

Russell scored 20 of his 29 points in another blistering third quarter against the short-handed Celtics, leading the Nets to a 110-96 victory on Saturday night.

“There’s two halves in the game. The first half was a little suspect, the turnovers, the shot selection. I just knew I had to tighten up,” Russell said.

Back from a seven-game trip that lasted more than two weeks, the Nets had a happy homecoming thanks largely to their All-Star point guard, who added 10 assists and finished with 25 points after halftime.

It was the third straight time he hurt the Celtics in the third quarter, and the Nets needed this one after going 2-5 on the road and dropping into seventh place in the Eastern Conference.

“I told you, man, every one is going to be worth it,” Russell said. “We need it, scratching and clawing for every one of them.”

Caris LeVert added 15 points for the Nets, who still face a tough stretch now that they’re home.

“We know that all these games coming up are playoff games,” Nets Coach Kenny Atkinson said. “It’s just how we have to look at it. We’re in it. We can’t shy away from it. They’re all playoff games, but it was important to get this one.”

Gordon Hayward scored 19 points for the Celtics, who rested Kyrie Irving and Al Horford on the second night of back-to-back games after a big victory over Indiana a night earlier.

They led early and trailed by only one at halftime before Russell heated up.

Russell hit his first 3-pointer to open the scoring in the second half, and soon took over. Mixing midrange jumpers with 3-pointers, he scored 14 points during Brooklyn’s 17-5 surge that extended a seven-point lead to 76-57.

“He’s tough to guard when he’s able to shoot from outside and I thought we did a pretty decent job on him there in the first half,” Hayward said. “Then he kind of just caught fire.”

Russell previously had 18-point and 14-point third quarters against the Celtics this season, and Boston couldn’t do anything about him this time, either.

“That was disappointing. That was something that we were obviously honed in on from the last few times we’ve played them,” Celtics Coach Brad Stevens said.

The Nets were held to 17 points in the first quarter, just one above their season worst, and trailed by four. Boston then opened the second with seven straight points to make it 28-17, but Brooklyn put together a good finish to the half to pull ahead 49-48 at the break.

MAGIC 121, PACERS 116: Aaron Gordon had 23 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, and Orlando racked up a season-high 37 assists in a win at Indiana.

Orlando remained a half-game behind Miami for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. Indiana is tied with the Celtics for fourth place, but Boston holds the head-to-head tiebreaker.

PISTONS 99, TRAIL BLAZERS 90: Reggie Jackson scored 28 points, Andre Drummond had 22 points and 19 rebounds, and Detroit Pistons ended visiting Portland’s six-game winning streak.

The Pistons were missing Blake Griffin, who was scratched moments before game time because of a sore left knee, but they maintained a half-game lead over Brooklyn for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. Detroit has won 11 straight at home.

Damian Lillard scored 23 points and Enes Kanter added 20 points and 15 rebounds for Portland, which fell a half-game behind Houston for the third seed in the Western Conference.

CLIPPERS 132, CAVALIERS 108: Montrezl Harrell scored 23 points, rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander added 22 points and eight assists, and Los Angeles beat visiting Cleveland.

The Clippers have won seven of eight and 12 of 14, and they moved within one-half game of San Antonio for the fifth seed in the Western Conference.

JaMychal Green added 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Clippers, who connected on 15 of 33 3-pointers. Los Angeles shot 62.4 percent overall.

Jordan Clarkson scored 26 points in 24 minutes off the bench for Cleveland, while rookie Collin Sexton added 21 points and Cedi Osman had 19. Sexton scored at least 20 points for the 11th time in his last 12 games.

The Cavaliers went just 3 of 23 from the 3-point line.

ROCKETS 119, KINGS 108: James Harden had 50 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, and scored 10 straight Houston points down the stretch to help the Rockets beat visiting Sacramento.

Harden had his 42nd career triple-double and third 50-point game in the last six. He made seven 3-pointers to become the ninth player in NBA history to reach 2,000 career 3s.

Houston had a three-point lead when Harden re-entered with less than seven minutes left. Willie Cauley-Stein made an alley-oop dunk to cut it to one before Harden scored all of Houston’s points in a 10-2 run that made it 111-102 with three minutes to go.

Clint Capela added 24 points and 15 rebounds, and Chis Paul had 22 points.

Bogdan Bogdanovic scored 24 points for the Kings.


RAPTORS: Toronto forward Patrick McCaw is expected to be out for about three weeks because of a sprained right thumb.

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