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Pierce scores 34; Nets 1-3 without Kidd

BOSTON (AP) -- Paul Pierce wanted the ball, and the short-handed
New Jersey Nets couldn't stop him.

Pierce's 34 points led Boston to a 102-93 win Friday night that
put the Celtics in eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Despite
the loss, the Nets clinched a playoff berth when Cleveland lost to
Philadelphia.

The Nets couldn't make up for the absence of Kidd, on the
injured list with a bone bruise in his left knee, and Martin, out
with left knee tendinitis. They're 1-3 since both were sidelined.

"I did a poor job," New Jersey coach Lawrence Frank said. "We
let Pierce control the game and that's my fault. It had nothing to
do with not having two players."

Pierce hit 10 of 20 shots after going 13-for-40 in his previous
two games, and sank 13 of 15 free throws.

"Paul had that look early in the game," Boston interim coach
John Carroll said. "He had that look I've seen on numerous
occasions, like `just give me the ball.' And the basket seems about
three times as big as it usually does."

Pierce had nine points in a 20-4 surge that increased Boston's
lead from 56-52 to 76-56 with 4:12 left in the third quarter.

"A playoff position is on the line. I'd come out strong whoever
we play," Pierce said. "Every time I looked up at the scoreboard
and Cleveland was down it gave me a sense of urgency."

The Celtics moved a half-game ahead of Cleveland.

Without Kidd, the NBA's assists leader, the Nets had trouble
getting open shots. And without two of their top three scorers,
much of the burden fell on Richard Jefferson, who finished with 28
points.

But he was upset that he had just three rebounds.

"I missed five or six different block-outs that led to their
offensive rebounds and their buckets," Jefferson said.
"Regardless of who's out on the floor we need to play hard and
play with emotion and we didn't do that."

Rodney Rogers had 24 points and 12 rebounds in place of Martin,
and Lucious Harris had 15 points and five assists filling in for
Kidd.

"We've just got to get everybody healthy," Harris said. "It's
a great accomplishment to make the playoffs, but we've got to win a
championship" after losing the last two NBA Finals.

The Celtics trailed only twice, 15-14 and 17-16, and led 53-46
at halftime.

They had a better chance of running with Kidd and Martin
missing, but Jiri Welsch said, "our main concern was to stop them
from running. Even without Jason Kidd, they're a good running
team."

The Nets cut the lead to 56-52, but the Celtics scored the next
10 points to start a 20-4 run that put them ahead 76-56 on Welsch's
layup. Pierce began the run with two free throws.

"In the first half they had a few easy baskets," Pierce said
of the Nets. "Richard Jefferson played well but we slowed him down
in the second half."

The Nets came back with a 14-4 run that began and ended with
3-pointers by Harris. That made it 80-70, and Boston led 82-70
after three quarters.

New Jersey cut that to 98-89 on consecutive 3-pointers by
Harris. The closest the Nets came after that was 100-93 on a dunk
by Jefferson with 32 seconds remaining.

Chucky Atkins had 17 points and Walter McCarty 15 for the
Celtics. Boston is 9-5 since obtaining Atkins from Detroit after
going 23-35 prior to his arrival.

The Celtics came in having lost their last two games by 16
points each. But they had five days off since their last game at
San Antonio. That rest helped them win only their second game in
their last 14 against New Jersey, including the playoffs.

Game notes
The last four games are the only ones the Nets have played
without both Martin and Kidd since they became teammates. ... The
Nets lead the season series 2-1 and can clinch it when the teams
meet again Monday in New Jersey. ... Rogers and Harris combined for
39 points. Martin and Kidd are averaging a combined 33.4.

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