(49-33, 16-25 away)
(44-38, 25-16 home)
8:00 PM ET, May 9, 2003
TD Garden, Boston, MA
BOSTON (AP) -- The New Jersey Nets have another huge playoff lead, and it'll be very tough to blow this one.
In a Game 3 quite different from the last Game 3 between the teams, the Nets defeated the Boston Celtics 94-76 Friday night to go up 3-0 in their Eastern Conference semifinal.
In the third game of last year's conference final, the Celtics erased a 21-point deficit -- the biggest fourth-quarter comeback in NBA playoff history -- to beat the Nets.
"We came up here and let that one get away,'' said Kenyon Martin, who led the Nets with 25 points. "We didn't want to let that happen again.''
The Nets would accomplish another first in futility if they lose the series after leading 3-0. No team has ever blown such a lead, although three teams have come back to tie a series before losing Game 7.
Game 4 of the best-of-seven matchup is Monday night in Boston.
"We're going to lay down or we're going to do something about it,'' said Paul Pierce, who led Boston with 23 points. "Knowing myself, my teammates, we're not a group that's going to lay down.''
As the Nets know so well.
Last year's comeback win inspired the Celtics to celebrate wildly and jump atop the scorer's table, but it was followed by three Nets victories as they won that series 4-2.
"We have the utmost respect for them. We know they can come back from 20 points in a quarter,'' said Richard Jefferson, who scored 20 points.
He and Martin combined for 16-of-21 shooting as the Celtics gave the forwards room outside and concentrated on stopping the inside game. Martin also played outstanding defense against Antoine Walker.
"We got pounded,'' Boston coach Jim O'Brien said. "It's hard to beat them if they're going to make that many jump shots.''
Walker continued to struggle. He shot just 6-of-17 after going 9-for-35 in the first two games. He finished with 15 points and 15 rebounds.
"They took it to us,'' Walker said. "All night we let them be the aggressors. That's when New Jersey's the best. If we want to keep this series alive and win Monday, we've got to be the aggressor.''
It was a relatively quiet game for Jason Kidd, who had nine points, nine rebounds and 11 assists. And the Boston fans who have been so hard on him in the past were relatively tame.
"It wasn't bad,'' Martin said. "We kind of took them out of the game early.''
Kidd ignored the crowd, even when it chanted "wife beater'' when he went to the foul line with 1:42 left in the third quarter -- a reference to his Jan. 2001 arrest for striking his wife. The charges were dropped when Kidd underwent anger counseling and paid a fine.
The Nets took their biggest lead of the first half, 34-21, on a 3-pointer by Rodney Rogers, who played for Boston last year. The Celtics cut that to 38-33 on Pierce's layup, but the Nets led 47-39 at halftime.
Pierce, who scored 19 points in the fourth-quarter comeback last season, couldn't save the Celtics this time as the Nets led 76-56 going into the final quarter.
"I thought it was pretty impressive,'' Nets coach Byron Scott said. "We didn't look at the score. We didn't play the score. We just came out with a very aggressive mindset.''
Not even the presence in the front row of Danny Ainge, who was named the Celtics' executive director of basketball operations before the game, provided the boost the Celtics needed. Ainge was a guard on Boston's last two championship teams in 1984 and 1986.
New Jersey's biggest lead was 87-62 before Walker scored on a putback with 6:26 left.
Just 25 seconds later, Pierce went to the Celtics' locker room with trainer Ed Lacerte. He had a strained muscle in his right leg and didn't return. He said he was hurt in the second quarter but did not limp after the game.
Late in the game with the outcome all but decided, Walker had to be restrained from going after a fan behind the bench. Other fans wearing Celtics jerseys attempted to come to Walker's defense, but they nearly incited a melee.
Walker said the same fan had been heckling him for years. The fan, a middle-aged man in a suit and tie, was whisked away by security; Celtics spokesman Bill Bonsiewicz said the team would revoke his season tickets.
"I've been here seven years. He's always got something to say to me, and I just got tired of it,'' Walker said. "I was out of character. I really feel badly about that.''
Pierce hit a 3-pointer to make it 60-51 with 7:28 left in the third quarter. Then New Jersey pulled away, scoring the next 15 points and taking a 75-51 lead with 55 seconds remaining. Kidd scored the last five points in the run.
The Celtics did reach one goal, cutting down on the 21 turnovers that cost them in Game 2.
They committed 17, leading to 16 points. But New Jersey turned the ball over just nine times.
Several fans in the front row wore San Antonio Spurs No. 5 jerseys with Kidd's name on the back. There was been widespread speculation that Kidd, who will be a free agent this summer, will sign with the Spurs. ... The Nets have won five straight playoff games for the first time in their history. They have a 3-0 series lead for the first time. ... New Jersey is 9-1 in its last 10 games against Boston. ... Celtics president Red Auerbach and former players Bob Cousy, John Havlicek, K.C. Jones, Tom Heinsohn and Bill Walton were in the crowd. ... Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney also attended.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||34-69 (.493)||27-78 (.346)|
|3PM-3PA||4-11 (.364)||8-24 (.333)|
|FTM-FTA||22-36 (.611)||14-16 (.875)|
|Fast Break Points||5||1|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||19 (1/0)||27 (1/0)|