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Kidd and Martin a bit too much for Celtics

5/6/2003

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- The Boston Celtics had the last
chance. The New Jersey Nets got the first win.

Kenyon Martin overcame foul problems to score 21 points, and
Paul Pierce spoiled a 34-point effort by missing the only shot that
really mattered for Boston in a 97-93 New Jersey victory in Game 1
of the Eastern Conference semifinal Monday night.

"It was back and forth,'' said Jason Kidd, who added 15 points,
nine assists and six rebounds for the Nets. "It's going to be like
that the whole series. You've got two talented teams who will try
to force their will and style on one another. It's just a matter of
who has the ball last.''

Pierce had it with the Nets ahead 96-93 with just under 10
seconds to play in the rematch of last year's conference final. He
used a pick at the top of the circle and had an open look when Kidd
and Richard Jefferson seemed to back off.

"I thought I got a great look,'' said Pierce, who hit one of
four 3-pointers on a night the Celtics were 9-for-28 from long
range. "It felt good coming out of my hands. It was a little
short. What more can you ask for? Down three, you get a good look
at the end of the game, and maybe you get it into overtime.''

Martin got the rebound and hit a free throw with 5.9 seconds to
play. The power forward made four free throws in the final 45
seconds.

"This is a tough loss for us in a hard-fought game,'' Celtics
coach Jim O'Brien said. "I felt that we were in position to win
the basketball game and we just didn't get it done down the
stretch.''

If the rest of the best-of-seven series is as good this one, the
matchup will rival last year's showdown the Nets won in six games.

"That was a great win for us to start the series,'' Nets coach
Byron Scott said. "You have to give Boston a lot of credit.
They're a very, very good basketball team.''

Game 2 is Wednesday night at the Meadowlands.

Kerry Kittles had 17 points for New Jersey and Jefferson added
13 and nine rebounds. Aaron Williams added 12 points and nine
rebounds for the Nets.

Eric Williams had 15 points for Boston, while Walter McCarty and
Antoine Walker each added 14 points for the Celtics, who only got
16 points from everyone else.

Neither team led by more than five points in the fourth quarter,
with the Nets taking the lead for good at 87-85 on two free throws
by Jason Collins with 3:16 to play.

After Walker forced a shot in the lane, Kidd drove the length of
the court for a layup.

The Celtics, who lost three of four games to New Jersey by an
average margin of 21 points in the regular season, wouldn't go
away. Pierce got a long rebound of a missed 3 by Tony Delk and hit
a 3-pointer to close to 89-88. Walker, who was 6-of-20 from the
field, missed a 3-pointer that would have given Boston the lead.

Jefferson scored on a fast break off that missed shot with 1:39
to play.

Boston closed the gap to 91-90 when Eric Williams made two free
throws. Martin, who picked up three quick fouls in the first half,
hit one free throw with 45 seconds to go.

With the crowd chanting defense, the Nets left Delk wide open
for a go-ahead 3, but again the shot missed badly. Martin hit two
free throws to give New Jersey a 94-90 lead with 24 seconds to
play.

J.R. Bremer closed the gap with another 3-pointer from the
corner with 15 seconds to play. Kidd pushed the lead back to three
with two free throws, then Pierce had his chance to tie the game
and missed.

Kittles hit three 3-pointers, Martin made three baskets,
including a three-point play, and Kidd hit three consecutive free
throws in in 19-9 third-quarter run that gave the Nets a 68-57
lead.

It seemed New Jersey was ready to roll. Instead, the Nets nearly
rolled over. They hit only one of their final 13 shots in the
period and Celtics finished with a 16-4 spurt, giving Boston a
73-72 lead going to the fourth quarter.

The Celtics could not have asked for a better first half.

Pierce went to the foul line 15 times and scored 17 points.
Walker had 11. McCarty hit all three of his 3-pointers and the Nets
had Martin and Collins pick up three fouls apiece. Martin even got
a technical foul.

Still, the Nets led 49-46 at the break.

Game notes
Kidd averaged a triple double in last year's East
Conference finals against the Celtics. ... McCarty was 4-of-6 from
3-point range. ... Pierce was 15-of-20 from the free throw line.
... New Jersey outrebounded Boston 44-30. ... Boston's four
offensive rebounds were the fewest by a Nets opponent in playoff
history. ... Martin has scored 20 or more points in seven of the
Nets' eight playoff games.