Taking a charge, Nets refuse to fall, 94-92

Celtics roar back again, but this time Kidd, mates up to challenge in Boston

Pro Basketball

May 28, 2002|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

BOSTON - The New Jersey Nets raced onto the court punching their arms into the air. Jason Kidd raised both of his hands, holding up two fingers on each, flashing the sign of redemption that told the Boston Celtics and their FleetCenter fans yesterday that the Nets had tied the Eastern Conference finals, 2-2.

The Nets never looked back to Saturday's dreadful collapse in Game 3. They never trailed. They led by as many as 15 points. They refused to wilt.

Now they head back to New Jersey with a 94-92 victory that drowned out the Celtics' euphoria of their record 21-point fourth-quarter comeback two days earlier.

With 6.6 seconds left yesterday, Lucious Harris made two free throws to break the only tie of the game. Paul Pierce, who had burned the Nets for 19 points in the fateful fourth quarter Saturday, was on the foul line to send the game into overtime with 1.1 seconds left.

Pierce, a 62.5 percent free-throw shooter in this series, missed the first. He intentionally missed the second and Boston center Tony Battie got the rebound, but his putback hit off the back rim as the buzzer sounded.

"I was tired of being humble," Kidd said of his gesture to a crowd that booed him every time he touched the ball and briefly chanted "wife-beater," a reference to his January 2001 arrest for striking his wife. "Now this is serious. We're probably getting tired of each other. We did what had to do, and that was to win one of two games on the road."

Kerry Kittles, who had an awful fourth quarter Saturday, led the Nets with 22 points. Keith Van Horn added 21, including two huge baskets - a three-pointer with 1:58 left to give the Nets a 90-86 lead and a layup with 1:31 left to make it 92-88 - that exorcised the Nets' Game 3 demons.

Pierce led the Celtics with 31 points and Antoine Walker added 30.

With 49.7 seconds remaining, Kidd (19 points, nine rebounds, nine assists) preserved a 92-90 lead by taking his third charge of the fourth quarter, stepping in front of a driving Rodney Rogers, who is 35 pounds heavier. Kidd's other two defensive stops came with 6:23 remaining when he took a charge from Pierce with the score 82-78 and with 2:43 left when Pierce bowled into him at 86-84.

Van Horn, however, missed from the left baseline with 31.1 seconds remaining, and the Celtics took over. Aaron Williams fouled Pierce out by the arc with 17.6 seconds left, sending him to the line. Pierce made both free throws to tie the game for the first time, 92-92.

The Nets burst out of the locker room at halftime, and after leading by 52-46 at the 9:40 mark, went on a 9-0 run.

But the Celtics, as has been their pattern, rallied. They went on a 9-0 run of their own, sparked by Rogers and Kenny Anderson, with a baseline spin move by Walker for a basket thrown in for good measure.

In the final minute of the third quarter, Walker cut the Nets' lead to one point with a wide-open three-pointer. But Harris answered with a three-pointer, giving the Nets a tenuous 73-69 lead entering the fourth quarter, with the roar of the crowd pounding in their ears.

They were still roaring when Harris went to the line with 6.6 seconds left.

"You've got 20,000 people out there screaming and trying to make you miss," Harris said. "You just have to concentrate and try to knock them down."

Harris did, and that set up the Celtics with a chance to go for the tie or the win.

They got the ball to Pierce, who drove and was fouled by Van Horn on a twisting layup with 1.1 seconds left.

Pierce, shooting only 40-for-63 (63 percent) from the line in this series after making 81 percent of his foul shots in the regular season, was short on the first attempt and grimaced.

"It felt good, actually. I released it, it was straight. I didn't put enough arc on it," Pierce said.

NOTE: Peja Stojakovic practiced with the Sacramento Kings, but the injured All-Star forward is still doubtful for Game 5 of the Western Conference finals tonight.

Stojakovic, the Kings' second-leading scorer during the regular season, has missed six straight playoff games since spraining his right ankle against Dallas May 9.

Stojakovic didn't speak to the media following the Kings' workout at their training complex, but coach Rick Adelman said he doesn't expect Stojakovic to play tonight.

"Every day, he's getting better," Adelman said. "I think by Friday he will be OK."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

NBA playoffs

Conference finals

(Best of seven; *-if necessary)

Eastern Conference

New Jersey vs. Boston

(Series tied 2-2)

Game 1: New Jersey 104, Boston 97

Game 2: Boston 93, New Jersey 86

Game 3: Boston 94, New Jersey 90

Yesterday: New Jersey 94, Boston 92

Tomorrow: Boston at New Jersey, 9 p.m.

Friday: New Jersey at Boston, TBA

*June 2: Boston at New Jersey, TBA

Western Conference

Sacramento vs. L.A. Lakers

(Series tied 2-2)

Game 1: L.A. Lakers 106, Sacramento 99

Game 2: Sacramento 96, L.A. Lakers 90

Game 3: Sacramento 103, L.A. Lakers 90

Game 4: L.A. Lakers 100, Sacramento 99

Today: L.A. Lakers at Sacramento, 9 p.m.

Friday: Sacramento at L.A. Lakers, TBA

*June 2: L.A. Lakers at Sacramento, TBA

NBA Finals

(Best of seven; *-if necessary)

Western Conference winner vs. Eastern Conference winner

June 5: East winner at West winner, 9 p.m.

June 7: East winner at West winner, 9 p.m.

June 9: West winner at East winner, 8:30 p.m.

June 12: West winner at East winner, 9 p.m.

*June 14: West winner at East winner, 9 p.m.

*June 17: East winner at West winner, 9 p.m.

*June 19: East winner at West winner, 9 p.m.

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