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C's drag it out in NJ News New Jersey Nets

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News » C's drag it out in NJ

C's drag it out in NJ

C's drag it out in NJCeltics 86, Nets 76

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Celtics didn't like losing at home to the Suns on Friday, but at least intellectually they had to be able to accept defeat against a high-quality team.

But falling to an 0-6 Nets outfit playing without four of its starters? That's the kind of psychological trauma that even Tony Soprano's shrink, Dr. Melfi, can't cure.

So the Celts dragged themselves off that couch - barely - outkicking the undermanned Nets, 86-76.

The Celtics arose for 27 points on 58.8 percent shooting in the last period to survive, but it will be hard for them to feel all that special about the last slice of their 7-1 start. Even with it being their eighth game in 12 nights, the Celts had no business being this close to a team missing 52.2 points from its starting five.

The athletic accountants in Las Vegas had the C's a 14-point - yes, two touchdown - favorite. Nostradamus had the Celts by 16. But logic was on holiday. So were the Celts for most of the night.

``Listen, they're NBA players and they're capable of making shots,'' Celtics coach Doc Rivers said of the Nets. ``We'll take the win. We can play better; we know that. But we'll take the win right now.

``I didn't think we had a lot in the tank. I could see that. I was just trying to milk the game and then pray at the end we had enough to win.''

The Nets outscored the visitors from the field, but the Celts hit 23-of-29 free throws while Jersey made nine of just 14. And when Brian Scalabrine hit two jumpers (one a 3-pointer) to start the fourth quarter the Celtics had a lead they did not relinquish.

``We did not anticipate coming in here and just walking over these guys,'' said Kevin Garnett after a nine-point, 13-rebound effort. ``They play in the league, too, and they're guys that have a lot of pride.''

Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo led the Celts with 16 points apiece, but the latter did not play in the final quarter.

``I was going to go with him, but then we had a nice little rhythm going,'' said Rivers. ``The floor was spaced so much with Ray (Allen) and Eddie (House) it allowed Paul to get free. It's funny. Paul actually became the point guard for us down the stretch. It was his playmaking more than his scoring.''

Taking an active roster of just eight into the game, Nets coach Lawrence Frank couldn't help but state the obvious.

``Unfortunately,'' he said, ``Lady Luck is hurting us a little bit right now.''

The Celtics weren't nearly as harsh against a team missing Devin Harris, Yi Jianlian, Courtney Lee and Chris Douglas-Roberts among others. The Nets may have been even more shocked than the Celts to be holding a 40-39 lead at the half. It seemed, however, that the guests appeared to find their groove in the third quarter. Trailing 45-41, the Celts finally began to get serious about going to the hoop.

Rondo had a pair of fast-break layups off turnovers, Kendrick Perkins dunked and Pierce scored on a nice cut (Allen feed) and on a short jumper. Perkins hit 1-of-2 free throws in an 11-0 run that gave the C's their largest lead of the night to that stage (seven points). But they were not nearly out of the woods. The Nets outscored them 16-7 over the last seven minutes to go into the fourth with a 61-59 lead.

``Sometimes you take stuff for granted,'' said Perkins. ``We put ourselves in that dogfight. We just did a good job of executing to get ourselves out of it.''


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