Regular Season Series (Game 4 of 4)

Series starts 1/21

Game 1: Friday, January 21st
Game 2: Wednesday, February 2nd
Game 3: Saturday, April 9th
Game 4: Wednesday, April 20th

Nets 102


Celtics 93

(45-37, 27-14 home)

7:00 PM ET, April 20, 2005

TD Garden, Boston, MA

1 2 3 4 T
NJ 20 27 32 23102
BOS 24 34 8 2793

Top Performers

NJ: V. Carter 37 Pts, 4 Reb, 1 Ast, 2 Stl

Bos: P. Pierce 21 Pts, 3 Reb, 3 Ast

Carter scores 24 of his 37 in second half

BOSTON (AP) -- Vince Carter landed awkwardly, grimaced and leaned on a table near the Celtics' bench. The game wasn't even 5 minutes old and already New Jersey's playoff chances seemed to sink as he limped to the locker room.

He knew better.

Less than 3 minutes after missing a layup and being kneed in the left Achilles' tendon by Antoine Walker, Carter returned to help the Nets earn the NBA's last playoff berth with a 102-93 win over Boston on Wednesday night.

"I just wanted to add some drama," he joked, a smile in place of the look of pain. "I knew I didn't do anything bad. I was just uncomfortable."

He was very comfortable with his shooting in the second half when he scored 24 of his 37 points. He even outscored the Celtics 15-8 in the third quarter and sparked the Nets' comeback from a 19-point, second-quarter deficit to the victory that gave them the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.

New Jersey and Cleveland, which beat Toronto, both finished at 42-40, but the Nets held the tiebreaker edge.

"It's a great feeling. We accomplished a lot," said Carter, obtained from Toronto on Dec. 17. "My goal was just to come out and lend a helping hand."

He did much more than that. The Nets were 32-24 with him and 10-16 without him. He led them in scoring in 16 of their last 19 games, averaging 32.5 points in those 16 contests.

"Vince has carried us since he's been here," New Jersey coach Lawrence Frank said. "Vince, time after time after time, delivers."

The Nets will play at top-seeded Miami on Sunday. The Celtics, who had already clinched the No. 3 seed, will and open their first-round series at home Saturday night against Indiana.

"I thrive when the stage gets bigger and I'm definitely ready," said Paul Pierce, who led Boston with 21 points. "It's that time of the year, playoff time. There's no time like it."

The Nets will participate after winning a game that went the way their season did -- a shaky start and a strong finish.

"This game sums up our whole season for us," said Jason Kidd, who spent the first month of the season on the injured list. "We were down but didn't fold the tent."

New Jersey had a huge 43-17 advantage in free throw attempts but needed one final rally after the Celtics used an 8-0 run to close to 96-93 with 1:16 left. The Nets scored the final six points, all on free throws, then shook hands with Boston players and walked calmly off the court.

New Jersey started the season with a 2-11 record but finished with a 15-4 surge. Still, the Nets went into the final day of the regular season competing with Cleveland for the last playoff spot.

As he did the previous night against the Cavaliers, Celtics coach Doc Rivers did not use his best two players, Pierce and Walker, in the fourth quarter. Two other starters who played against Cleveland sat out against New Jersey -- Gary Payton with lower back spasms and Raef LaFrentz with a groin injury.

"These two games really helped, in a strange way, with our young guys," Rivers said. "We're ready for the playoffs."

The Nets got 19 points from Kidd and 18 from Nenad Krstic. Rookie Delonte West scored 15 for Boston.

"We've played enough in big games toward the end of the season to win the division and lock things up and now it's time to roll," Walker said.

The Nets missed 10 of their first 11 shots and got an early scare when Carter hobbled off the court with 7:29 left in the first quarter.

He didn't help for much of the rest of a half in which the Celtics opened their biggest lead, 49-30, on Pierce's 3-pointer 5:07 before intermission.

The Nets cut that to 58-47 at halftime.

"Our halftime was kind of silent," Brian Scalabrine said. "Coach got on us and explained the situation. He basically said that we had 24 minutes for our life."

The Nets scored the first nine points of the third quarter, cutting the lead to 58-56 on Carter's 3-pointer. Then they used an 8-0 spurt to go ahead 69-64 with 4:12 left in the third quarter. Carter's 9-foot turnaround broke a 64-64 tie and Scalabrine followed with a 3-pointer.

New Jersey extended that run to 18-2, outscored the Celtics 32-8 in the third quarter and led 79-66.

Carter hit his last 3-pointer with 2:47 to go, then Boston made its last run -- a three-point play by Al Jefferson, and baskets by West and Justin Reed. But Kidd made a free throw to end that comeback and finished the game with two more with 23 seconds remaining.

Game notes

For a long stretch in the fourth quarter, Boston's lineup was second-year forward Marcus Banks and rookies Jefferson, West, Reed and Tony Allen. ... New Jersey was 15-26 in the first half of the season and 27-14 in the second.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 102 93
FGM-FGA 30-79 (.380) 35-76 (.461)
3PM-3PA 11-26 (.423) 10-23 (.435)
FTM-FTA 31-43 (.721) 13-17 (.765)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 17-45 11-41
Assists 18 24
Turnovers 13 19
Steals 9 9
Blocks 0 2
Fast Break Points 13 15
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 20 (0/0) 33 (0/0)
Largest Lead 13 19

Top Performers

New Jersey
Vince Carter Carter
Points: 37
Reb: 4
Ast: 1
Stl: 2
Blk: 0
Paul Pierce Pierce
Points: 21
Reb: 3
Ast: 3
Stl: 0
Blk: 0