- The Washington Times - 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 yesterday 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 tomorrow night at New Jersey.
Game 4 had a consistent pattern: The Nets built leads; the Celtics battled back. On and on it went, the process repeating itself for four quarters.
Kidd drew his third charge of the fourth quarter with 49 seconds left as Rodney Rogers headed to the basket with a chance to tie the game at 92.
Van Horn missed a jumper with 31 seconds left, and Aaron Williams committed a foul with 17.6 seconds remaining to send Pierce to the line. Pierce calmly made both, giving Boston its first tie since the opening tipoff.
Kidd caught the ensuing inbounds pass and held the ball for 8 seconds as the Celtics double-teamed him. He finally found Lucious Harris cutting to the basket. He was fouled by Battie and made both free throws with 6.6 seconds left.
"You've got 20,000 people out there screaming and trying to make you miss," Harris said. "You just have to concentrate and try to knock them down."
Harris did, and that set up the Celtics with a chance to go for the tie or the win.
They got the ball to Pierce, who drove around Kittles from the left side and was fouled by Van Horn as he went up for a twisting layup attempt with 1.1 seconds left.
Pierce, shooting only 40-for-63 (63 percent) from the line in this series after making 81 percent of his foul shots in the regular season, was short on the first attempt and grimaced.
"It felt good, actually. I released it, it was straight. I didn't put enough arc on it," Pierce said.
He shot the second one hard off the backboard and rim, and Battie had a clear shot after grabbing the offensive rebound. The shot was no good, and the Nets escaped Boston with what they wanted a split of the two games.
If the Nets were still thinking about their Game 3 collapse when they set an NBA playoff record by blowing the 21-point lead, it didn't show in the early going.
New Jersey's first four baskets were 3-pointers, and another 3 this one by Kittles gave the Nets their first double-digit lead, 19-8. Kittles had missed 17 consecutive 3-point attempts prior to this game.
"I wanted my first shot to be a 3 so I could play with aggression," Kittles said.
Walker scored seven points in a 9-0 run to open the second quarter, cutting Boston's deficit from 31-18 to 31-27. But the Celtics weren't getting any offense from anyone other than Walker and Pierce, and the Nets were able to maintain a nice cushion throughout the quarter.


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