Nets strike right back

Posted: Tuesday, May 28, 2002

BOSTON -- Jason Kidd ran over to the fans sitting across from the New Jersey bench and held up two fingers on each hand.

''Two-two'' was what the gesture meant, and 2-2 is where the Eastern Conference finals now stand.

''I was tired of being humble,'' Kidd explained after the Nets beat the Boston Celtics 94-92 Monday in a game in which they never trailed. ''This is now a series. It's a step where we're probably getting tired of each other, and so be it.''

There was no hangover from Game 3 for the Nets, but there might be one for Boston's Paul Pierce after what happened at the end of Game 4.

New Jersey gave up a few big leads, but at least the Nets didn't blow the biggest shot of the game. That unkind distinction belonged to Pierce, who missed the first of two foul shots with 1.1 seconds left and the Celtics trailing by two points. Pierce missed the second intentionally, and Tony Battie couldn't convert the putback.

The Nets regained the homecourt advantage by barely coming out ahead in the closest game thus far in this best-of-seven series.

Kidd led the Nets with 19 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, nearly getting his third triple-double of the series. But none of Kidd's stats were as important as the three charges he drew in the fourth quarter, frustrating Boston's bids for a comeback each time.

His antics at the end seemed to be in response to a crowd that booed him every time he touched the ball and briefly chanted ''wife-beater'' -- a reference to his Jan. 2001 arrest for striking his wife. The charges were dropped when Kidd underwent anger counseling and paid a fine.

''You try to win with grace and dignity,'' said Kidd, who took umbrage with people in Boston making too much of New Jersey's blown 21-point lead in the fourth quarter of Game 3.

''The biggest thing is they don't like to lose up here, and unfortunately sometimes you have to tip your hat to a team that comes into a building -- especially when we were supposed to be on Route 93 going back home because we weren't even supposed to be in this series. The series was over,'' Kidd said.

Kerry Kittles and Keith Van Horn each had their highest-scoring game of the series with 22 and 21 points, respectively, and New Jersey hit 10 3-pointers as the Celtics packed their defense inside and dared the Nets to beat them from the perimeter.

Pierce scored 31 points and Antoine Walker had 30 for Boston.

Game 5 is Wednesday night at New Jersey.

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