Boston rallies to record win

Published May 26, 2002|Updated Sept. 3, 2005

When the buzzer sounded and the comeback was complete, the Celtics celebrated like it was the end of Game 7 instead of Game 3 in the East final.

Paul Pierce's teammates mobbed him at center court until he broke free and jumped on the scorer's table. Coach Jim O'Brien's ever-present poker face disappeared, the most stoic of coaches pumping his fist to the crowd and walking triumphantly off the court.

The Celtics pulled off the greatest fourth-quarter comeback in playoff history Saturday night, with Pierce scoring 19 of his 28 in the final 12 minutes as Boston overcame a 21-point deficit to beat the Nets 94-90.

"It was purgatory, it might have been closer to hell for three quarters, but that last one was Eden. That was great," O'Brien said.

No team had come back from more than 18 at the start of the fourth, and Pierce did not look like a candidate to pull it off as he missed 12 of his first 14.

But he drove to the basket recklessly in the fourth, and the Celtics outscored the Nets 41-16 to take a 2-1 series lead.

Phoenix came back from a 100-82 deficit to beat Houston 124-117 in overtime May 11, 1994.

"At the start of the fourth quarter we just wanted to fight and make a statement for the next game that we're going to be a team to be reckoned with. I think we did more than make a statement," Pierce said.

"If I was on the other end of this, I would be hurting right now. I think this is a chance for us to gain momentum and take control of the series and not look back."

This one seemed lost at the end of three, when Pierce noticed Nets reserves were laughing at the Celtics. Antoine Walker told teammates they had to regain some respect.

"I've never been a part of anything like this in my life," said Walker, who scored 23 and helped keep the Celtics within striking range _ if being down by as many as 26 can be called striking range.

Pierce got inside for his sixth layup of the quarter to make it 90-87 with 1:37 left, then hit two from free throws to pull Boston within a point with 1:07 left.

After Kerry Kittles missed a 3, Pierce was fouled with 46 seconds left, making both for the Celtics' first lead since 1-0. Kittles lost his dribble on the ensuing possession, and Kenny Anderson got the rebound and layup.

New Jersey's Keith Van Horn flung up a wild shot with 22 seconds left, and Pierce made one free throw for a four-point lead.

Jason Kidd, who finished with 19, missed four 3-point attempts as the Nets completed their collapse.

"It hurts, but the series isn't over," Kidd said. "We let a golden opportunity slip away."


PHOENIX: Center Maria Stepanova went home to Russia for personal reasons and will not play this season.