Celtics end remarkable season with win over NetsApr 17, 2008 - 3:33 AM By Tony Lee PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
BOSTON (Ticker) -- The "Drive for 17" can now begin in earnest.
With their trio of All-Stars on the bench through much of the second half and a much-anticipated playoff run on the horizon, the Boston Celtics got a career-high 27 points from Leon Powe and 16 from Tony Allen in a 105-94 victory over the New Jersey Nets in the regular season finale for both teams Wednesday night.
Richard Jefferson scored 24 points for the Nets, who lost all four meetings with the Celtics this season and dropped the series with them for the first time since 2001-02.
All-Stars Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen combined for 18 points as the Celtics (66-16) wrapped up the third-best regular season in franchise history.
"We're on the road, everything starts right now," Pierce said. "It starts (Thursday) in practice."
Boston will open the playoffs at home against Atlanta this weekend and, with home-court advantage locked up throughout the postseason, will be favored to win its 17th NBA crown and first since 1986.
"The road to 17. It's pretty much what it is," Garnett said. "Like Paul said, I am pretty fortunate to be in this situation. Now, it's here, and I am ready to take care of some business - one game at a time."
The Celtics' league record for a single-season turnaround rests at 42, in large part due to the offseason acquisitions of Garnett and Ray Allen after going 24-58 last season. Those two and Pierce each were limited to less than 18 minutes Wednesday and sat the entire fourth quarter.
New Jersey actually erased an early 13-point deficit to take its first lead, 62-60, on a 3-pointer by Vince Carter midway through the third. But the Celtics finished the quarter on an 11-0 run to take a four-point lead into the fourth.
The Nets reclaimed the lead for an instant before rookie Glen Davis had a three-point play early in the fourth to put the hosts up for good. Powe had eight straight Boston points later in the quarter to put his team ahead, 99-85, and scored 12 points in the final 12 minutes.
Although meaningless in the standings, the effort served to prepare Boston's bench, which outscored New Jersey's reserves, 75-34.
"I think everybody on that bench is ready and focused," Powe said. "They prepare for the games just like the starters. We're ready, everybody is ready on this team and we are just looking forward to the challenge."
Powe also grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds and got to the line for a career high-tying 13 free throws.
"Powe was the best player on the floor, and we just couldn't do enough to win the game," New Jersey coach Lawrence Frank said.
Down the stretch, most of the Celtics' regulars were standing and cheering the back-ups, smiles on their faces.
"We couldn't be any more ready," said Allen, who had three points in 17-plus minutes. "We've gone through a lot and we couldn't be any more excited than we are now."
The Nets (34-48), long since removed from the playoff equation, finish with their worst mark since 2000-01 - the last time they missed out on the postseason.
"You always want to continue to play in the second season," Carter said. "That is what you play for, to be in the second season. So, it is a little disappointed for me especially, because I have only missed it once in my career, other than this one."
Carter scored all of his nine points on three 3-pointers in failing to reach double figures for just the second time all season.
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