<
>

New Jersey wins 11th straight home game

12/26/2002

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- The New Jersey Nets didn't take a
break from winning on their court, even while playing at home on
Christmas for the first time.

The Nets, the NBA's best home team, won their 11th straight game
in New Jersey by beating the Boston Celtics 117-81 on Wednesday in a
rematch of last season's Eastern Conference finals.

"The thing we want to do first and foremost is protect our
home,'' said Richard Jefferson, who scored 22 points. "That's the
key. We have to protect where we play.''

The victory, the Nets' fourth straight, enabled New Jersey
(20-9) to extend its Atlantic Division lead over the Celtics
(18-10) and the Philadelphia 76ers to 1½ games.

New Jersey improved to 16-1 at home.

"I think this was the best timed effort we've had all year,''
Jefferson said. "We needed a big win and offensively and
defensively, we did what we had to do. It was a great win. They
looked a little flat and we were ready. That's a lethal
combination.''

The Nets had lost four straight to the Celtics in the regular
season.

"This effort we gave here was the best we played this season,''
Scott said. "It's just a great win against a great team like the
Celtics. We played solid defense for 48 minutes. We did everything
we wanted to do in terms of our game plan.''

The Nets shot a season-high 65 percent in the first half and a
season-best 54 percent for the game. Jefferson and Lucious Harris
(17 points) each made their first four shots.

"Boston definitely gives you open shots, so it's important to
get the first couple down,'' said Harris, who has averaged 17
points in 12 starts in place of injured guard Kerry Kittles. "When
you make the first few shots, it opens up things for everyone
else.''

Jason Kidd, the Nets' leading scorer, was held without a point
in the first quarter, but finished with 16 points and 11 assists.

Kenyon Martin had 16 points and 13 rebounds, Rodney Rogers added
13 points, and Jason Collins had 10 for the Nets.

"The first quarter set the tone,'' Kidd said. "I think we were
all excited about playing on Christmas and wanted to go out there
and play our game from the start. We knocked down our first few
shots and things just snowballed from there.''

Paul Pierce scored 27 points, and Antoine Walker had 21 for the
Celtics, but no other Boston player reached double figures.

Both Pierce (7 of 20) and Walker (5 of 18) had a tough time
getting into any rhythm, thanks to the Nets' tenacious defense.

"There will be no excuses coming from the Celtics locker room
about this one,'' coach Jim O'Brien said.

Pierce couldn't provide any answers, either.

"I don't know why we didn't come out with any intensity or a
sense of urgency,'' Pierce said. "They just flat out outplayed
us.''

Harris scored four straight points during an 8-0 first quarter
run that pushed the Nets' lead to 20-8. Jefferson capped another
8-0 spurt that increased the lead to 36-17.

The Nets led by as many as 26 in the second quarter and built
the advantage as high as 38 points, 91-53 with 3:38 left in the
third quarter.

New Jersey had just its second home sellout of the season, but
some seats were empty due to a snowstorm.

"We feel comfortable at home,'' Kidd said. "This is a perfect
example. There's a snowstorm outside and people still came out to
root us on. I think the fans inspire us. We have to see if we can
find the same energy on the road that we have at home.''

Game notes
It was the first time the Nets played on Christmas since
1984, when they beat the Knicks. New York forward Bernard King
poured in 60 points, the most scored in an NBA game on Christmas.
... Kittles missed his 10th straight game because of a sprained
left knee, but is close to returning. ... The Nets' other home
sellout was last week against the Los Angeles Lakers, their
opponent in last season's NBA Finals.