EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Despite losing several key players
in the offseason and getting off to a horrendous start, the New
Jersey Nets are still in the hunt for a fourth straight Atlantic
Jason Kidd hit a crucial 3-point shot just before the shot clock
expired with 57.9 seconds to play and the Nets posted a season-high
third straight win with a 104-98 decision over the Boston Celtics
on Friday night.
The win moved New Jersey (15-24) within 3½ games of first-place
Philadelphia (18-20) in the wide-open and woeful Atlantic Division,
where every team is under .500.
"We're going to keep fighting," said Kidd, who flirted with
his 62nd career triple-double. "We now have found ourselves right
there in the race in the Atlantic, no matter what our record is.
Somebody has to win it, and we're thinking why not us?"
A division title didn't seem likely after the Nets said goodbye
to free-agent Kenyon Martin and traded Kerry Kittles in the offseason, remaking a team that had been to the NBA Finals two of
the last three seasons.
New Jersey faces a challenge in the next week, playing a five-game West Coast road trip. They are 6-15 away from home.
"We have to start somewhere and we are starting to play as a
team," said Kidd, who finished with 14 points, nine rebounds and
nine assists. "It doesn't matter who puts the ball in the basket.
We are defending and having fun. That's what as a team you have to
Kidd hit the biggest shot of the game on a broken play with New
Jersey clinging to a 95-91 lead. Vince Carter, who had 25 points
despite playing in foul trouble, drove to the basket and found no
room. Turning, he saw Kidd as time ran down on the shot clock.
"I wish we could say it was a designed play," Kidd said.
"Vince penetrated and I was sitting there wide open. I just saw
there was 1 second. I had no chance to think. I just caught it and
shot it. Maybe I need to do that more often."
Carter said, "When J.K. let it go, it looked good, it looked
Travis Best came off the bench to score a season-high 24, his
most productive game since scoring 27 against Boston on Dec. 8,
2000. Rookie Nenad Krstic added 13 points and a career-best tying
Paul Pierce had 22 points to lead the Celtics (18-21), but only
six came in the second half.
"To win this division we're going to have to win some road
games," said Pierce after Boston dropped to 5-15 away from home.
"We're playing well at home, but we have to get our act together
on the road."
Gary Payton added 16 points, including a 3-pointer with 41.9
seconds to play that got Boston within 98-94 just seconds after
Kidd hit his clutch 3.
After Jason Collins hit two free throws with 41.4 seconds to go,
Ricky Davis sank a 15-footer to get the Celtics within 100-96.
Kidd gave Boston a little life by missing a free throw and Davis
got the Celtics within 101-98 on a 10-footer with 26.1 seconds
Kidd then hit two free throws and Davis, Pierce and Walter
McCarty missed 3-point attempts sealing the Nets' win.
The game had no flow as the officiating crew of Bennett
Salvatore, Violet Palmer and Tony Brothers called 60 personal fouls
and technicals fouls on Nets coach Lawrence Frank, Celtics coach
Doc Rivers and Carter. There was also a defensive three-seconds
call against New Jersey and more than a few quizzical looks from
both teams after some whistles.
Carter and Kidd, who both came close to having triple-doubles on
Wednesday in a win over Milwaukee, helped give the Nets the lead
for good in the third quarter.
Carter, who was limited to 16 minutes in the first half, scored
12 points in the opening 7 minutes of the third quarter to give New
Jersey a 66-60 lead.
Kidd then took over scoring four points the rest of the quarter
and setting up Brian Scalabrine for six straight points.
The Nets led by as many as 12 points in the fourth quarter, but
Boston made a run with Al Jefferson scoring six points and Raef
LaFrentz adding a 3-pointer in a 9-1 run.
Best scored 14 second-quarter points, two shy of his
previous season high. Carter has scored at least 20 points in four
straight games. ... Pierce was only 2 of 6 from the field in the
second half ... McCarty didn't draw any smiles from Rivers by
throwing away a behind-the-back pass in the closing seconds of the
third quarter with Boston down seven.