<
>

Walker struggles again as Celtics fall to Nets

5/8/2003

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- When the New Jersey Nets hear the word "butter'' yelled from their bench, they know the 24-second
clock is running down and it's time to shoot quickly.

Richard Jefferson heard that magic word after the Boston Celtics
had used a 14-0 fourth-quarter run to climb back into Game 2, and
he immediately elevated for a jumper from the right wing that gave
New Jersey a five-point lead with 5:26 left.

The Celtics would never get that close again, and New Jersey
went on to a 104-95 victory Wednesday night for a 2-0 lead in their
second-round series.

"That was a monster shot, a big shot,'' Nets guard Lucious
Harris said. "He knocked it down and that put a little damper in
their play. They played great defense and he made the shot.''

Jefferson finished with 25 points and hurt the Celtics on the
other end, too, by slowing down Paul Pierce in the third quarter.

"It was huge for our team,'' Jefferson said after the Nets held
home-court advantage despite allowing Boston to open the fourth
quarter with 14 unanswered points. "The last couple of years we've
always lost that one game at home. Now we have a chance to do what
we need to do. We're going up to Boston and we're going to try and
get both of them.

Jason Kidd added 23 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, while
Kenyon Martin had 14 points and 10 rebounds and again shut down
Boston's Antoine Walker.

"Basketball is a game of runs,'' said Martin, who held Walker
to 3-for-15 shooting. "RJ made a huge shot for us that stopped the
bleeding. We staggered a little bit but we did not fall. We came
back and J (Kidd) made great plays for us.''

Game 3 will be played in Boston on Friday, with Game 4 on
Monday.

Pierce, who sprained his right ankle late in the game, led the
Celtics with 32 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds, his first
career postseason triple-double. But he also had six of Boston's 21
turnovers, and Walker had five. Tony Delk added 19 points.

"Paul is carrying his load, he's playing like a superstar,''
Walker said. "I just have to come along with him. It's a tough
time. I try to pride myself on being a playoff player, and I am
coming up short for the first time in my career. I just have to
bounce out of it. It's not over.''

This game was similar to Game 3 of last year's conference finals
between the teams. New Jersey took a 21-point lead into the final
period of that contest yet lost the game.

The Nets took a 16-point lead into the fourth quarter, only to
have Boston pull to 82-80 when Pierce hit two free throws with 7:49
to play.

Jefferson hit two free throws and Martin one to push the lead to
five with 6:33 to play.

A basket inside by Eric Williams cut the gap to three points,
and it seemed the Celtics would get a chance to make it closer.

But then came Jefferson's "butter'' moment, which was followed
by a 3-pointer from Kittles for an eight-point lead. Boston got no
closer than six the rest of the way.

"Sometimes you don't even know there's a drought because we
have so many guys shooting the ball,'' said Jefferson, who was
10-for-18 from the field and held Pierce to four points in the
third quarter. "It's not like you have Paul Pierce shooting the
ball all the time. When the shot comes, you just have to knock it
down.''

Pierce gave the Celtics a major concern when he sprained his
ankle with 3:45 to play.

"I really don't know how bad it's going to be,'' said Pierce,
who never left the game. "I don't think it will have an effect on
me for the rest of the series. I'll get treatment on it and be
ready to go.''

After using a 15-5 spurt at the end of the second quarter to
take a 51-45 halftime lead, Kidd and the Nets seemed to take
command in the third quarter, hitting 13 of 20 shots from the
field, including nine of their first 11.

Kidd, who only had four points, three rebounds and two assists
in the first half, had 13 points, four assists and four rebounds in
the period. He had four points and three assists in a 12-point run
that gave New Jersey a 71-55 lead, and he scored the final nine
points to give the Nets a seemingly safe 82-66 edge entering the
fourth quarter.

The second game of the series showed some different trends.
Boston pushed the ball inside in the first half and held the Nets'
fast break in check for the opening 20 minutes.

Pierce, who again was the scoring constant for the Celtics, hit
a layup for a 40-36 lead with 4:30 left in the half.

After that, the Celtics turned the ball over four times in a
15-5 run that gave New Jersey a 51-45 halftime lead. Jefferson and
Jason Collins scored four points apiece in the burst in which all
five Nets starters had points.

Game notes
Kidd refused to discuss the suspension of Boston Globe
sports columnist Bob Ryan for comments Ryan made about Kidd's wife.
... The Nets bench nullified a defensive 3 seconds technical
against Boston by yelling so much at referee Dick Bavetta that he
called a technical, resulting in neither team taking a free throw.
... NBA commissioner David Stern was at the game. ... Boston
outscored New Jersey in the paint 52-32.