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Nets defense clamps down on Celtics for win

BOSTON (AP) -- After a dismal shooting first half, the New Jersey
Nets looked like they were headed to their fourth loss in five
games.

"We couldn't hit a shot [in the first half]," said Nets
forward Richard Jefferson, who made five free throws down the
stretch to pace the Nets to a 79-74 victory over the Boston Celtics
on Friday night.

"Fortunately we were still playing some pretty good defense so
we had a chance in that second half to come back."

Jefferson, who scored 12 points, extended the Nets' one-point
lead to 75-69 with 1:30 left by converting five of six foul shots.

New Jersey held Boston to 38 percent shooting (26-for-68).

Vince Carter led the Nets with 15 points, but was only 4-for-16
from the field. Carter had scored 20 or more points in 23 straight
games.

Nenad Krstic had 10 points and 11 rebounds. Cliff Robinson added
14 points, including a 3-pointer with 23 seconds left that gave the
Nets a 78-71 lead.

"It's so important to stay in rhythm," said Nets head coach
Lawrence Frank. "If that was our first playoff game, that would
have been very concerning."

Both teams struggled offensively throughout the game in fact the
58 points scored in the first half was the lowest scoring first
half in the NBA this season.

New Jersey, which trailed 33-25 at half and by as many as 11
points, took its first lead of the second half with 38 seconds left
in the third quarter. Jefferson converted one of two free throws
and Robinson tipped in the miss, giving the Nets a 55-52 lead.

"We felt it was a game we could have won," said Celtics guard
Paul Pierce, who led all scorers with 22 points on 5-for-16
shooting.

"Neither team really had control of the game. We just shot
ourselves in the foot down the stretch. "

Ryan Gomes added 17 points and 14 rebounds for the Celtics
(32-48). Gomes had only four points and two rebounds in the second
half.

Tony Allen added 11 points for the Celtics, who have lost three
in a row and who are 2-5 in April.

Game notes
Legendary Celtics head coach Red Auerbach was on hand to
present Pierce with the first annual Red Auerbach Award, awarded to
the player who best exemplifies what it means to be a Celtic.
Auerbach watched the game courtside from a wheelchair. ... Carter
trails Bernard King on the all-time Nets single-season scoring
mark. He needs 28 points to break the mark, which King set with
1,909 points during the 1977-78 season.