<
>

Celtics jump out to early lead, hold on late against Nets

BOSTON (AP) -- The Boston Celtics may be starting a new trend at
the end of games.

Ricky Davis scored 12 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter and
the Celtics held on for a 99-96 win over the New Jersey Nets on
Friday night.

The Celtics have endured their share of last-second losses and
fourth-quarter collapses this season. But for the second straight
game, they pulled it out in the final minutes.

"We've learned how to do it," Davis said. "It takes a while
to get. But once we learn it, we'll be tough to stop. We have to
keep from turning the ball over and we'll be all right."

Paul Pierce had 25 points, 12 rebounds and six assists for
Boston. Delonte West added 12 points and Kendrick Perkins had 11.

On Wednesday, Boston used a late run to beat Minnesota. It's
just the second time the Celtics have won consecutive games this
season.

"Somebody asked me, 'How many times are you going to do
this," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "As many as it takes. It's
good for the guys, but not for me."

The Celtics won despite missing five of 10 free throws in the
closing 4:34.

Jason Kidd had 24 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for
the Nets, who host the Celtics on Saturday night in their second
matchup this season. Vince Carter added 20 points and Richard
Jefferson 16.

Kidd nearly tied it, but missed what would have been a
four-point play after faking Pierce and drawing a foul before
nailing a 3.

Perkins scored off Pierce's miss in the lane to put the Celtics
ahead for good at 94-92 with a little over 2 minutes to play.

Kidd hit his 3-pointer and drew the foul on Pierce with 38
seconds left, but he missed the free throw that would have tied it
at 97. On the ensuing possession, Davis missed a jumper and
Jefferson hauled in the rebound.

Carter drove inside and missed, and Davis grabbed the rebound
and was fouled with 3.1 seconds left. He made both free throws
before Carter back-rimmed a long 3-point attempt in the final
seconds.

"I felt like it was a good look," Carter said. "I thought it
was going in."

New Jersey also missed its share of free throws in the final
minutes, going 3-for-7 in the final 3:14.

"We had the game on the road and the ball with 12 seconds left
with one of the best players in the league," Kidd said. "He did
the thing, just didn't hit the shot."

New Jersey, which trailed by nine at the half, used a 12-2 run
midway through the third quarter to take a 68-67 lead.

The Celtics hit seven of their first eight 3-pointers and opened
up a 45-34 lead midway through the second. They pushed it to 51-38
before the Nets closed the half by scoring six of the final eight
points, making it 53-44 at halftime.

Game notes
Rivers said he likes consecutive games against the same
team. "It's rare when you can get a playoff intensity in the
regular season," he said before the game. ... New Jersey guard
Lamond Murray strained his left knee in the second quarter and
didn't play the rest of the game. ... The Nets entered as only one
of two teams with a winning road record in the Eastern Conference,
with Detroit as the other. ... A fan was escorted away from behind
the Celtics' bench by security early in the fourth.