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Nets Hold Off Late Celtic Rally

Jefferson's jump shot stops Boston's momentum as New Jersey takes 2-0 series lead with a 104-95 victory.

May 08, 2003|From Associated Press

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — When the New Jersey Nets hear the word "butter" yelled from their bench, they know the 24-second clock is running down and it's time to shoot quickly.

Richard Jefferson heard that magic word after the Boston Celtics had used a 14-0 fourth-quarter run to climb back into Game 2, and he immediately elevated for a jump shot from the right wing that gave New Jersey a five-point lead with 5:26 left.

The Celtics would never get that close again, and New Jersey went on to a 104-95 victory Wednesday night for a 2-0 lead in their second-round series.

"That was a monster shot, a big shot," Net guard Lucious Harris said. "He knocked it down and that put a little damper in their play. They played great defense and he made the shot."

Jefferson finished with 25 points and hurt the Celtics on the other end by slowing down Paul Pierce in the third quarter.

"It was huge for our team," Jefferson said after the Nets won despite having Boston open the fourth quarter with 14 unanswered points. "The last couple of years we've always lost that one game at home. Now we have a chance to do what we need to do. We're going up to Boston and we're going to try and get both of them."

Jason Kidd 23 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, while Kenyon Martin had 14 points and 10 rebounds and again shut down Boston's Antoine Walker, who scored seven points.

Game 3 will be played in Boston on Friday, with Game 4 on Monday.

Pierce, who sprained his right ankle late in the game, led the Celtics with 32 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds, his first career postseason triple-double.

But he also had six of Boston's 21 turnovers, and Walker had five. Tony Delk added 19 points.

"Paul is carrying his load, he's playing like a superstar," Walker said. "I just have to come along with him. It's a tough time. I try to pride myself on being a playoff player, and I am coming up short for the first time in my career.

"I just have to bounce out of it. It's not over."

The Nets took a 16-point lead into the fourth quarter, only to have Boston pull to within 82-80 when Pierce made two free throws with 7:49 to play.

Jefferson made two free throws and Martin one to push the lead to five with 6:33 to play.

A basket inside by Eric Williams cut the gap to three points, and it seemed the Celtics would get a chance to make it closer.

But then came Jefferson's "butter" moment, which was followed by a three-point basket from Kerry Kittles for an eight-point lead.

Boston got no closer than six the rest of the game.

Pierce gave the Celtics a major concern when he sprained his ankle with 3:45 to play.

"I really don't know how bad it's going to be," said Pierce, who never left the game. "I don't think it will have an effect on me for the rest of the series. I'll get treatment on it and be ready to go."

After using a 15-5 spurt at the end of the second quarter to take a 51-45 halftime lead, Kidd and the Nets seemed to take command in the third quarter.

Kidd, who only had four points, three rebounds and two assists in the first half, had 13 points, four assists and four rebounds in the quarter.

He had four points and three assists in a 12-point run that gave New Jersey a 71-55 lead, and he scored the final nine points to give the Nets a seemingly safe 82-66 lead beginning the fourth quarter.

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