Regular Season Series (Game 3 of 4)

Series starts 10/31

Game 1: Wednesday, October 31st
Game 2: Saturday, December 1st
Game 3: Wednesday, March 13th
Game 4: Sunday, April 7th

Nets 89

(40-24, 15-18 away)

Celtics 97

(37-27, 20-11 home)

    7:00 PM ET, March 13, 2002

    TD Garden, Boston, MA

    1 2 3 4 T
    NJ 25 19 25 2089
    BOS 25 23 26 2397

    Top Performers

    New Jersey: J. Kidd 23 Pts, 13 Reb, 8 Ast, 5 Stl

    Boston: P. Pierce 32 Pts, 7 Reb, 2 Ast, 4 Stl, 2 Blk

    Celtics score last eight points for sixth straight W

    BOSTON (AP) -- For the first time in a long time, a playoff type of atmosphere returned to Boston.

    Paul Pierce

    Paul Pierce scored 23 of his 32 points in the second half for the Celtics.

    "It definitely got loud today," said Paul Pierce, who scored 23 of his 32 points in the second half Wednesday night as the Boston Celtics gained ground on the Eastern Conference-leading New Jersey Nets with a 97-89 victory.

    Pierce went 6-for-8 from 3-point range, and Antoine Walker's 30 points included a 3-pointer with 19.8 seconds left as Boston won its sixth consecutive game and pulled within three games of New Jersey in the Atlantic Division.

    "We are still the best in the East, and we're not hearing any footsteps," said Jason Kidd, who had 23 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists for the Nets.

    Vitaly Potapenko had 12 rebounds, and Kenny Anderson had 10 assists and a key basket for Boston after the Nets erased an eight-point deficit to tie the score 89-all with 1:53 left. The Celtics scored the last eight points of the game, igniting a crowd that has been waiting since 1995 for the once-proud franchise to return to the playoffs.

    "That's playoff basketball," Pierce said. "I'd love to be a part of it every day."

    Pierce isn't speaking from experience, having missed the playoffs in each of his three previous seasons. But five weeks from now, he and Walker will get their chance to experience a playoff atmosphere for real.

    "It's hard for me to say. I've never been in the playoffs," said Walker, who's in his sixth year without a postseason appearance. "I think you just saw two very good teams battling."

    Boston led 88-80 before the Nets got consecutive three-point plays from Aaron Williams and Kidd. The Nets trailed 88-86 when Lucious Harris went to the free throw line with a chance to tie it, but he missed the first and made the second.

    Pierce hit one free throw, then Kidd hit a long 2-pointer to tie it 89-all with 1:53 to go. Eric Williams hit a 3-pointer with 90 seconds left; on Boston's next possession, Anderson missed a jumper, got the ball back and hit a jumper to give Boston a five-point lead with 51 seconds left, waving his arms in the air as the crowd went into a frenzy.

    After Keith Van Horn missed a fallaway jumper, Walker hit a 3-pointer to clinch it.

    The Celtics have now beaten Eastern Conference playoff contenders Philadelphia, Orlando, Detroit, Washington (twice) and New Jersey during the winning streak. New Jersey lost four straight on a West Coast swing before beating Toronto on a last-second shot Tuesday night.

    "They're close. They're right there," said Nets coach Byron Scott, whose team has lost seven straight on the road. "It's going to go down to the wire."

    The Nets haven't made the playoffs since 1998, haven't won a postseason game since '94 and haven't made it out of the first round since 1984 -- the only time in the franchise's NBA history that it has won a playoff series.

    The last time the Celtics made the playoffs, in 1995, they lost 3-1 to Orlando in the first round. The Celtics, who have an NBA-record 16 world championships, haven't won a playoff series since 1992 and haven't won it all since '86 -- the longest drought in franchise history.

    Pierce, who scored 46 in the second half and overtime of Boston's last game against the Nets on Dec. 1 when Boston won 105-98, had 15 in the third quarter, hitting a 3-pointer to beat the buzzer and give Boston a 74-69 lead.

    Williams opened the fourth with a baseline jumper from the left of the basket, and Richard Jefferson answered with a jumper from the left of the key to make it 76-71. After Potapenko made one free throw, Pierce hit another 3 to give the Celtics a nine-point lead, their biggest of the game.

    Game notes

    The league fined Nets coach Byron Scott $7,500 for publicly criticizing officials after a 96-90 loss at Seattle last Saturday. "I had to say something about how that game was officiated," he said before Wednesday's game. "Players wouldn't respect me if I didn't say something." ... Walker and Pierce had 21 of Boston's 25 points in the first quarter. Walker had 21 by himself at the half. ... The Celtics are 6-0 with Tony Battie sidelined with swelling in his leg.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 89 97
    FGM-FGA 30-73 (.411) 34-85 (.400)
    3PM-3PA 5-16 (.313) 14-24 (.583)
    FTM-FTA 24-29 (.828) 15-24 (.625)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 7-41 10-42
    Assists 20 24
    Turnovers 20 13
    Steals 8 13
    Blocks 8 2
    Fast Break Points 6 7
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 21 (1/0) 26 (1/0)

    Top Performers

    New Jersey
    Jason Kidd Kidd
    Points: 23
    Reb: 13
    Ast: 8
    Stl: 5
    Blk: 0
    Paul Pierce Pierce
    Points: 32
    Reb: 7
    Ast: 2
    Stl: 4
    Blk: 2