Celtics 96, Nets 88, OT

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)—After 44 minutes of awful basketball, Paul Pierce and the Boston Celtics did everything necessary to make the New Jersey Nets feel miserable.

Pierce atoned for a woeful shooting effort with a 3-pointer late in regulation and two jumpers in overtime to rally the Celtics to a 96-88 victory Saturday.

“What a great win for our guys,” said coach Doc Rivers, who recently saw the Celtics lose a franchise-record 18 straight games. “We were out of this game. We kept fighting back and hanging in there. They really executed the last two minutes, offensively and defensively. I couldn’t ask for anything better, even if we lost the game.”

The Celtics should have lost. They trailed by 11 points with less than four minutes to play, and had nothing going on offense until everything magically came together. They scored on 10 of their last 11 possessions in regulation, getting 3-pointers from Pierce and Delonte West in the final 11 seconds of the fourth quarter to tie the game at 83.

Remarkably, Boston was 0-for-13 from long range before those shots. The Nets also chipped in, failing to foul West on his game-tying 3-pointer when they had a foul to give.

“We got lucky,” said Pierce, who had 17 points on 8-of-28 shooting. “You have to, to win games like that with two 3-pointers in 10 seconds to put it into overtime.”

Al Jefferson scored a career-high 32 points and added 18 rebounds to help Boston win its third straight and to snap the Nets’ three-game winning streak in a game that would have helped New Jersey in the playoff hunt.

Vince Carter had 25 points for New Jersey, which led 76-65 with 3:51 to play. Eddie House added 14 points, but he missed a key free throw with 10.4 seconds to play that opened the door for West to tie the game 4 seconds left in regulation after taking a pass from rookie Rajon Rondo.

“As a shooter, you’ve got to keep taking the next shot and be confident the next one is going in,” said West, who finished with 15 points. “Coach sent we down to the baseline and I had time to size the rim up.”

The Nets took an 86-83 lead early in overtime on a jumper by Carter and a free throw by Jason Kidd, who had four points on 1-of-7 shooting.

Boston scored the next five points on a free throw by Ryan Gomes, a layup by West and two free throws by Jefferson, who was 13-of-23 from the field and 6-of-8 from the free-throw line.

After Carter tied the game with a jumper, Pierce took over, hitting consecutive jumpers from the top of the key for a 92-88 lead with 41.3 seconds left.

“That’s Paul being Paul, and that’s just the way the game goes, it’s spurts and runs,” Kidd said. “They couldn’t make anything and neither could we at the beginning. They made the shots when they needed to and that’s why they won.”

Carter missed the Nets’ final three shots, and West and Jefferson put the game away at the free-throw line.

“We kind of let this one get away from us,” Kidd said. “We had control of the game, especially late, and made some mental mistakes.”

Before rallying, Boston was in danger of hitting season lows for points and shooting percentage.

“I wasn’t sure we were in an NBA game at some points,” Rivers said. “In the third quarter, I didn’t know where we were at. Both teams were playing hard. Nothing was working. You may be able to chalk it up to one of those afternoon games.”

The Celtics made 10 of 48 shots from the field in the first half—including Pierce’s woeful 1-of-13 barrage—but only trailed 36-33. The difference was free throw shooting and turnovers. Boston was 13-of-18 from the line and forced 13 of the Nets’ 23 miscues.

NOTES

The Nets set a season-high with 14 blocked shots. The team record is 22 set in 1991. …Boston took a season-high 102 shots from the field, hitting 35, or 34.3 percent. The Celtics season low for shooting was .315 against Orlando on Jan. 7. …New Jersey starts a six-game road trip in Philadelphia on Sunday. …Nets F Richard Jefferson may play on the trip. He has been out since Jan. 22 following ankle surgery.

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