Eastern Conference finals

May 19, 2002|By Milton Kent

No. 1 New Jersey vs. No. 3 Boston

Playoff path: New Jersey beat Indiana, 3-games-to-2, in the first round and defeated Charlotte, 4-1, in the conference semifinals. Boston beat Philadelphia, 3-2, in the first round and knocked off Detroit, 4-1, in the conference semifinals.

Season series: The Celtics beat New Jersey in three of four games in the regular season.

Nets update: In winning its first-ever best-of-seven series, New Jersey has advanced to the conference finals for the first time in the 25 years the franchise has existed in the NBA. ... Center Todd MacCulloch is the only player on either roster who has played in a conference final, last year's Eastern series when he was a member of the 76ers. ... Jason Kidd averaged 21.3 points, 10.8 assists and 9.8 rebounds in the four games against Boston, all dramatically improved from his regular-season overall averages. ... Keith Van Horn is shooting a team-high 47.7 percent from three-point range in the playoffs and is leading the Nets in rebounding at 7.1 a game in the postseason.

Celtics update: Boston advances to the conference finals for the first time since 1988, when it lost to Detroit in six games. ... The Celtics are 43-4 in best-of-seven series after winning the opener and are 47-17 in seven-game series openers overall. ... Boston shot 46.2 percent from three-point range in the four games against the Nets. ... Paul Pierce averaged 36.5 points against New Jersey, 11.3 more a game than the regular season, and shot 75 percent from three-point range. ... Antoine Walker has at least two three-pointers in seven of the Celtics' 10 playoff games.

Bottom line: For all the glamour of the Lakers-Sacramento series, this one should be more closely contested. Kenyon Martin and Kerry Kittles will have to slow Pierce, but the Celtics will also have to keep Kidd from triggering the fast break. The home-court advantage may spell the difference, and that belongs to New Jersey.

Prediction: Nets in seven.

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