- The Washington Times - Monday, May 20, 2002

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. They ran at every opportunity, scored without much difficulty and never once trailed.
And with Jason Kidd doing everything he has done all season, the New Jersey Nets showed why they're the No.1 team in the East.
Picking apart Boston's vaunted defense with surprising ease, the Nets beat the Celtics 104-97 last night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.
From shooting percentages to rebounding to the ability to dictate the tempo, the Nets dominated the Celtics in nearly every facet of the game. Most important was the way they produced easy baskets 19 of them layups or dunks.
"We didn't even play a lick of defense all night," Boston's Paul Pierce said.
Pierce stated before the series that the Nets had no one who could defend him. What Pierce didn't mention was that something else foul trouble could stop him.
Pierce scored 14 points in the first quarter but was a nonfactor offensively the rest of the way. He picked up his third and fourth fouls in a 16-second span early in the third quarter, and the Nets went on an 18-8 run after he went to the bench.
Pierce didn't score again until 8:21 remained in the game. By then the Nets had built their lead as high as 17 and were able to withstand a rally that got the Celtics within six with less than two minutes left.
Kidd finished with 18 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists, getting the triple-double with 3:53 left when he fed Keith Van Horn for a jumper that gave the Nets a 97-86 lead.
Kerry Kittles, Todd MacCulloch and Van Horn scored 14 apiece, and seven Nets reached double figures.
"There's more than one guy who can put the ball in the basket, and being unselfish and trying to play the right way that's been our motto the whole season," Kidd said.
Pierce and Antoine Walker led Boston with 27 points each.
Much was made before the series about the offensive talents of Pierce and Walker and Boston's edge in 3-point shooting, but the Nets negated it by capitalizing on a factor that was not highlighted in recent days their height advantage.
New Jersey outrebounded Boston 49-38 and scored 48 points in the paint. Kenyon Martin scored only nine points, but his defensive presence inside helped the Nets deter the Celtics from taking the ball to the basket.
Boston settled for far too many outside shots, even for a team that relies so much on the 3-point shot. The Celtics hoisted 29 3s, making 10, and shot just 41 percent overall.
"Their halfcourt offense, their movement, I thought they were very, very crisp," Celtics coach Jim O'Brien said. "Our defense was not up to the standard that New Jersey set with their offense."
Game 2 is tomorrow night at the Meadowlands.
The Celtics' defense, which held the Detroit Pistons to just 79.4 points a game in the second round, was nowhere to be found in this game.
New Jersey shot 49 percent from the field and 89 percent from the line. Boston missed 10 free throws, with Pierce and Walker combining to miss six in the fourth quarter.
Pierce picked up his third foul early in the third quarter, arguing vehemently when referee Ron Garretson said he fouled Kittles from behind on a jump shot. Pierce was still steaming over the call on Boston's next possession when he drove to his left around a screen and into the lane.
Kidd slid over and blocked his path, and Garretson again called a foul on Pierce this time for charging. Pierce went to the bench, and the sequence fired up the Nets. Van Horn scored inside, and Kidd sped around Kenny Anderson for a lefty layup from the right side.
From there, Kidd kept the pressure on. First, he calmly hit a pull-up jumper with his foot on the 3-point line, then hit a finger roll and a pair of foul shots before feeding Richard Jefferson a 30-foot pass for an alley-oop dunk that made it 79-66 with 1:58 left in the third.
The lead reached 17 when Williams hit a jumper with 9:53 remaining.
"We're not the same team we were when we played Boston in the regular season. We've grown, just as they have, and matured as a team," Nets coach Byron Scott said. "We've gotten better as a team at both ends of the court, and today it was on display."
Walker made it 99-92 by hitting a 3-pointer with 1:41 left, and Pierce made one of two from the line 20 seconds later. Walker missed a 3-pointer with 39 seconds left and a chance to make it a three-point game, and Jefferson made two from the line for a 101-93 lead that all but wrapped it up.
A sign that the Celtics' defense was not up to speed came early in the game when Kittles had two dunks and two layups before four minutes had elapsed. Kittles and MacCulloch had combined for 18 of the Nets' first 23 points.
Boston cut a seven-point deficit to two as Pierce scored 14 in the first quarter, but the Nets stayed ahead throughout the second quarter by continuing to look to run and getting the ball inside for high-percentage shots.
"I don't understand why people think that just because it's the playoffs you're not going to be able to run the ball up and down the floor. We're going to play the way we played all season long," Scott said.


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