BOSTON (AP) -- Any excitement the Boston Celtics might have felt after beating New Jersey was tempered by the knowledge that it
wasn't the victory they wanted.
"It doesn't mean nothing,'' Celtics guard Paul Pierce said Wednesday night after Boston beat the Nets 96-79 in a rematch of last year's Eastern Conference finals. "This game doesn't put us into the NBA Finals. It's a regular-season game, and we play Atlanta on Friday.''
Tony Delk and Shammond Williams each scored 21 points -- the first time all season that neither Pierce nor Antoine Walker led the Celtics in scoring. Pierce had 18 points and 13 rebounds, and Walker added 16 points as the Celtics snapped a two-game losing streak.
The teams did nothing to calm the budding rivalry that flourished in last year's playoffs, when the Nets bristled at Boston's behavior after their 26-point collapse in Game 3. Taunts directed toward Jason Kidd's wife and son by Celtics fans brought
emotions to the boiling point before the Nets won in six games and advanced to the NBA Finals.
Although both teams are once again near the top of the conference standings, neither put much importance on the early-season meeting.
"The rivalry started in the playoffs,'' Kidd said, "and it will have to continue in the playoffs, not the regular season.''
Boston shot 14-for-25 from 3-point range, and Delk went 6-for-7. Williams had a career-high nine rebounds -- sharing the floor with Delk instead of taking turns to keep Kidd from dominating the point.
"The big two didn't have their 'A' game tonight,'' said Kidd, who scored 19. "So it shows they're different from last year.''
Rodney Rogers, who played for Boston at the end of last season
before leaving as a free agent, had 10 points and eight rebounds.
Dikembe Mutombo had 13 rebounds for the Nets, who scored just 14
points on 4-for-22 shooting while giving the game away in the third
"We were terrible tonight,'' Nets coach Byron Scott said. "I don't understand how you can come in here, especially against a team that you know is going to play you extremely hard, that wants to beat you badly ... and we come out with a lackadaisical effort.''
Wednesday's rematch lacked the importance or the drama of the
playoff series, as the Celtics took a double-digit lead with a pair
of 11-0 runs in the third quarter and never looked back.
The Celtics led 44-39 early in the third before scoring 11
consecutive points, getting a dunk from Tony Battie, two 3-pointers
from Pierce and one from Delk. Later in the third, Boston turned a
60-48 lead into a 22-point game with another 11-0 run, punctuated
by a breakaway dunk by Williams with 5 seconds left in the quarter.
Williams was called for a technical foul -- the fifth in the game -- for hanging on the rim, and Kidd sank the free throw to make it 73-51 heading into the fourth. New Jersey cut it to 14 in the fourth on Kenyon Martin's three-point play, but the Celtics would not reprise the Nets' unprecedented collapse in last season's playoffs.
Pierce, in a shooting slump this season, went back to the shoes he wore last year. ... Celtics coach Jim O'Brien was called for a technical in the second quarter for complaining about an
offensive foul on Walker, who actually traveled. ... A few minutes
later, after another foul against Boston, O'Brien had to be
restrained by assistant coach Lester Conner from going onto the
court to argue again. ... Battie was called for a technical while
on the bench. ... Vin Baker and Mutombo were called for matching
technicals late in the first half for waving their fingers in each
others' face after Baker took exception to an elbow underneath the