Three players were ejected after the teams engaged in a fierce shoving match that ended a bid Boston's Rajon Rondo had been making to eclipse the NBA's consecutive double-digit assist record.
Brooklyn's Kris Humphries fouled Kevin Garnett hard along the baseline during the second quarter, after which both Garnett and Rondo charged Humphries. Rondo and Humphries were ejected, as was Brooklyn forward Gerald Wallace. Garnett escaped with a lone technical foul.
Rondo had posted at least 10 assists in 37 straight games and that streak came to an end with his departure. He had moved into a second-place tie with former Utah guard John Stockton on the all-time list. Magic Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers holds the record at 46 games.
The Nets held a 15-point lead heading into the fourth quarter and survived thanks in part to a season-best 17 points off the bench from Jerry Stackhouse.
Brooklyn won its fourth straight. Boston suffered its first loss in three outings.
Garnett and Brandon Bass both scored 16 for the Celtics.