for this game

Nets extend Celtics' franchise-record skid to 17 games

Feb 10, 2007 - 5:05 AM BOSTON (Ticker) -- A rusty Paul Pierce received a standing ovation when he entered the game. That was about all Boston Celtics fans had to cheer about.

Pierce made just 4-of-16 shots from the field and the Celtics surrendered the first 10 points as their franchise-record losing streak was extended to 17 games with a 92-78 loss to the struggling New Jersey Nets.

Vince Carter scored 21 points and Jason Kidd added 13, eight rebounds and nine assists for the Nets, who have won two straight after losing four in a row.

"It's definitely frustrating because you don't want to lose," Pierce said. "I don't ever want this team to get used to losing. Our jobs are to go out and compete every night and not worry about the losing streak that everybody is throwing in our face. We can't point the finger. We have to get over this hump because it will all be over."

The proud Boston franchise, which has won an NBA-leading 16 championships, hoped that the return of its leading scorer would provide a lift to a club that had not tasted victory since January 5 at Memphis, and a crowd that had not witnessed a triumph at TD Banknorth Garden since December 15 against Denver.

But not even the return of Pierce could help Boston, which had won just two of its 24 games without the high-scoring swingman, who had been sidelined since December 22 with an injured left foot.

"It was great having Paul back. Obviously, he struggled," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "You can see, no legs for the most part. But that's what I expected. Still, I like him being back on the floor. Other than that, not a lot to talk about."

Pierce did not start but entered with 4:12 left in the first quarter. His time off showed as he missed his first eight shots and finished with nine points in 20 minutes.

"I felt pretty good to get back out there with the guys and get my feet wet," Pierce said. "Being such a long layoff, I've only had a couple of practices, I didn't practice this week. It just felt good to be out there. ... I wasn't originally supposed to come back until Sunday, but I shot around this morning and I just got anxious. I was tired of sitting there watching.

"I have to work my way back because I was out so long. I have to use the games to get back into shape because this time of year, practices are so few. I just wanted to get into some sort of a rhythm before we go out West."

Rookie Marcus Williams scored 11 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter for New Jersey, which never was seriously challenged after taking a 42-39 lead into halftime. The Nets led by as many as 19 points in the fourth quarter.

"We've been in many different situations with leads and the emphasis was ignore the score and just focus on this play, and when that play's over, go on to the next play," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "Our struggles have been getting too comfortable and losing a little bit of focus when we have a lead. We had a 10-point lead four different times, and finally we were able to build on it and get the (win)."

The Nets were coming off a two-point triumph over Atlanta and a pair of overtime defeats to Philadelphia and the Hawks.

"It's new territory for us," Kidd said. "The biggest thing was that we took care of business. We got the win, and it didn't come down to a last-second shot."

Williams finished 6-of-10 from the floor and added seven rebounds in 20 minutes. Eddie House added 12 off the Nets' bench.

Boston played without swingman Wally Szczerbiak, who sprained an ankle for the third time this season in Wednesday's 91-79 loss to Miami.

Kidd scored two early baskets and Carter's 3-pointer gave New Jersey a 10-0 lead 2 1/2 minutes into the game. The Celtics closed within 19-16 at the end of the first period and battled the Nets even in the second.

But Carter scored seven points in the third and Mikki Moore added seven as New Jersey opened a 69-56 lead.

"We kind of got a little frustrated at halftime because they ended the second with a run," Kidd said. "The intent in the third quarter was to be aggressive, and we did that."

Delonte West scored 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting but turned over the ball six times for the Celtics, who converted 27-of-78 shots. Al Jefferson added 13 points and 17 rebounds in the loss.

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