Final

Regular Season Series (Game 3 of 4)

Series starts 11/7

Game 1: Friday, November 7th
Nets94Final
Celtics87
Game 2: Sunday, January 25th
Celtics91Final
Nets110
Game 3: Friday, March 26th
Nets93Final
Celtics102
Game 4: Monday, March 29th
Celtics84Final
Nets80

Nets 93

(42-29, 18-18 away)

Celtics 102

(32-40, 16-20 home)

    8:00 PM ET, March 26, 2004

    TD Garden, Boston, MA

    1 2 3 4 T
    NJ 23 23 24 2393
    BOS 25 28 29 20102

    Top Performers

    NJ: R. Jefferson 28 Pts, 3 Reb, 7 Ast, 3 Stl, 2 Blk

    Bos: P. Pierce 34 Pts, 8 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 Blk

    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.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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    Team Stat Comparison

     
    NJ
    BOS
    Points 93 102
    FGM-FGA 35-79 (.443) 35-79 (.443)
    3PM-3PA 10-25 (.400) 5-22 (.227)
    FTM-FTA 13-19 (.684) 27-33 (.818)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 7-36 14-45
    Assists 30 14
    Turnovers 11 11
    Steals 8 4
    Blocks 6 3
    Fast Break Points 5 3
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 26 (1/0) 18 (0/0)

    Top Performers

    New Jersey
    Boston
    Richard Jefferson Jefferson
    Points: 28
    Reb: 3
    Ast: 7
    Stl: 3
    Blk: 2
    Paul Pierce Pierce
    Points: 34
    Reb: 8
    Ast: 2
    Stl: 2
    Blk: 1