for this game

Celtics' late spurt ruins Nets' rally

Mar 5, 2009 - 4:37 AM EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- Stephon Marbury made an unpopular return to the New York Metropolitan area. Paul Pierce made sure it was a successful one.

Pierce hit a jumper with 20 seconds left to give the Boston Celtics a 115-111 victory over the New Jersey Nets on Wednesday. The victory clinched a playoff spot for the defending NBA champions.

The Celtics called a timeout with six seconds left on the 24-second clock. Pierce took Jarvis Hayes down low and shook loose to hit the game-winning shot. Pierce finished 12-of-14 from the field for 31 points.

"They defended that one pretty well," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "Paul just made a (heck) of a shot."

Vince Carter then missed a contested layup and the Nets were forced to foul. They fouled Kendrick Perkins but the Nets weren't over the limit. They then fouled Ray Allen, a 95 percent foul shooter, and he knocked down a pair to lock up the victory.

"I have to make sure I do everything a little bit harder," Perkins said. "I have to be the guy that's anchoring the defense, I've got to be the guy that's in the pick-and-rolls, I have to be the guy that's helping out on everybody. I just have to make sure I pick up my job a little more.

"We miss (Kevin Garnett) so much. He's the Defensive Player of the Year, he's our best defender on the team. So I just try to do my job a little bit better."

The Nets had taken a 111-108 lead on Carter's 3-point basket. However, the Celtics went on a 7-0 run to close out the game. Ray Allen knocked down a clutch 3-pointer to start the surge.

"That was the play, there's nothing more to it. I got open," Allen said. "There's nothing more to explain other than I had a shot, just had to take and I was ready to knock it down. Paul had the hot hand so we were able to get my man to switch a little bit and give me some room."

Rajon Rondo had scored 16 of his 20 points in the third quarter as the Celtics appeared to take control of the game. Rondo scored seven unanswered points in a run that enabled Boston to open a 71-62 lead.

After a hoop by Brook Lopez, Rondo added another basket to give him nine straight points.

Rondo hit a driving layup with 29 seconds left in the quarter and added a foul shot with six seconds left to give Boston a 92-81.

"I just try to be aggressive," Rondo said. "With some guys out, they're giving me my shot now. So I just have to take the shot with confidence and be aggressive."

The Nets cut the deficit to 96-89 in the final quarter before Eddie House responded with a 3-point shot. After a three shot by Carter, who scored 34 points, the Celtics ran a textbook pick-and-roll with Pierce feeding Leon Powe for the jam that made it 101-92.

The Nets refused to die, however, and Devin Harris and Hayes combined for an 8-0 run to make it 103-100.

The Nets kept rolling and, after a hoop and foul shot by Harris, it was 105-105. However, Pierce responded as a champion does, hitting a jumper and being fouled by Hayes to make it 108-105 with just more than two minutes left.

Marbury was greeted with boos in his first appearance in the area since signing with the Celtics after a season-long dispute with the New York Knicks that saw him sit out until reaching a financial agreement with New York and being released.

Marbury wound up with no points and four assists in 14 minutes.

"It's always fun playing in this area, always," Marbury said. "It's basketball, at the end of the day. It's basketball."

As for his rude welcome, Marbury said, "That's how they felt, they let everyone know how they felt. It's OK. I was concentrating on trying to win. That's it."

Pierce provided the spark in the first half, scoring 18 of his points as the Celtics rolled to a 58-51 advantage at the break.

The Celtics outscored the Nets, 27-20, in the first quarter and managed to maintain their advantage through an opening 24 minutes. The Celtics shot 62.5 percent from the field for the first half and 61 percent overall, a fact not lost on Nets coach Lawrence Frank.

"This is a super team," Frank said. "With that said, they shot 61 percent and we were still up three. You know, we knew exactly what they were going to run and Allen was still able to get the three. The basketball gods last night were with us, and tonight they weren't."