Fed by Teammates, Jefferson Comes up Big

Al Jefferson

Big Al was dominant in the post Saturday night against the Nets. Jesse D. Garrabrant

After a summer of dropping some baby fat and working on his game with Clifford Ray, Al Jefferson spent most of training camp talking about how he wanted to "be a beast in the paint."

Saturday night, the Celtics were feeding the beast.

Jefferson had his best game as a pro, posting an impressive 29 points and 14 rebounds -both career highs - as the Celtics battled back from an early 20 point lead to beat the Nets 92-90 on Paul Pierce's buzzer-beater at Continental Airlines Arena.

"This is one of those games that proves that you shouldn't quit no matter how many points you are down. We were down 18-0 in the first quarter. We stuck together and we were out there fighting together," Jefferson said.

The Celtics looked to their center early as they mounted their comeback, and Jefferson scored nine points and grabbed seven rebounds in the first half as the Celtics took their first lead at 38-37, and then went into the half trailing 48-45.

While Jefferson has had some nice first halves in other games this season, the Celtics made a conscious effort to get Big Al the ball on the block in the second half, and you could see his confidence growing as the game went on and his teammates kept working to deliver him the ball.

Jefferson is now averaging 10.7 PPG and 8.0 RPG, and a quick start that was interrupted by an emergency appendectomy - is there any other kind? - seems to be back on track. And it couldn't be coming at a better time, with Kendrick Perkins on the sidelines for at least the next three weeks with plantar fasciitis, Michael Olowokandi still suffering from an abdominal injury, and Theo Ratliff nowhere near returning.

"They had one guy dominate the game in Al Jefferson," said Nets coach Lawrence Frank. "[He] was getting to where he wanted and he had a great game."

It's not like the Nets didn't try to stop Jefferson from posting up. On several possessions, New Jersey closed off the passing lane, and the Celtics swung the ball back to the top of the key to reset. With Jefferson re-posted, they went back to Big Al and he went to work again on the block.

"A lot of my shots were falling tonight," said Jefferson, who had five offensive rebounds and also recorded two steals and a block. "I was getting more and more confident and everything just worked out for us."

After what amounted to a lost season last year thanks to ankle injuries that appear to be behind him (knock on wood), things appear to finally be working out for Jefferson as well.

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