EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New Jersey Nets are boiling mad.
As the Nets and Boston Celtics get ready for Game 5 of the NBA Eastern Conference finals tonight at Continental Airlines Arena, the Nets have put a huge chip on their collective shoulder.
Over the holiday weekend in Boston, the Nets coughed up a 26-point third-quarter lead to lose Game 3, then desperately clung to the remnants of another large third-quarter lead (15 points), to beat the Celtics, 94-92, and tie the best-of-seven series at 2-2.
The Nets are mad because they feel one horrible quarter, even if it was a record-setting debacle of a quarter, should not have been enough to consign them, the team with the best regular-season record in the East, to summer vacation in the minds and words of so many.
And they're mad because their star and leader, Jason Kidd, was taunted by Boston Celtic fans in a way that seems, to Kidd anyway, too personal.
Every time Kidd shot free throws in the fourth quarter Monday, Celtic fans yelled "wife beater, wife beater," at Kidd.
Kidd said Tuesday that he could accept being booed and could accept the "wife beater" chant. When he was playing for the Phoenix Suns, he was charged with striking his wife, Joumana. Though the charges were dropped, he paid a fine and underwent anger management counseling. The blow to his reputation and to that of the Suns is believed to have been a factor in Kidd's trade to the Nets.
What he found objectionable were comments made by some fans directly to Joumana and 3-year-old T.J., the couple's son.
"That bothers me," Kidd said. "I can't protect them. I'm worried about them at the same time I'm worried about trying to win a ballgame. You can't do that to somebody's family."
The Nets are also tired of being overlooked. "People wrote us off too soon," guard Kerry Kittles said. "I think we earned a little more respect than we've been given."
The Celtics aren't worried about why the Nets are fired up. They are trying to figure out how to quit putting themselves in a major first-half hole.
"We know we can come back because we've done it all year," Boston forward Antoine Walker said. "But we don't need to be doing it every game."
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
NEW JERSEY VS. BOSTON
Series tied, 2-2
Game 1...New Jersey 104, Boston 97
Game 2...Boston 93, New Jersey 86
Game 3...Boston 94, New Jersey 90
Game 4...New Jersey 94, Boston 92
Game 5...Today at New Jersey, 6 p.m.
Game 6...Friday at Boston, 4 p.m.
Game 7...Sunday at New Jersey, TBA*
All times PDT. * If necessary.