EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., Dec. 1 (Ticker) -- Paul Pierce
had two games Saturday. One was terrible and the other terrific.
Pierce scored two points in the first half and 46 following intermission for the biggest day of his career as the Boston Celtics rallied for a 105-98 overtime victory over the New Jersey Nets.
Pierce could hardly have been worse in the first half, when he missed 15-of-16 shots and the Celtics dug a 47-33 hole. But the star swingman kept firing and made 12-of-18 shots after the break as Boston overcame a 17-point third-quarter deficit.
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Boston's Paul Pierce, in the midst of setting a career high with 48 points.
"We showed a lot of emotion. We showed a lot of heart," Pierce said. "Things weren't going our way in the first half, but the character of this team is starting to develop, the toughness, the mental toughness on the court. No lead is too big for us."
The 6-6 Pierce made all five of his 3-pointers in the second half and overtime. He had a chance to give the Celtics the win in regulation, but his 19-footer from the right wing bounced off the rim as time expired.
When Pierce was asked what enabled him to rebound from a poor first half, he said, "I guess my mental approach to the game.
"Regardless of how bad I was shooting in the first half, I put that out of my head," he added. "If I'm going to go out there in the second half and say, `Well, I don't want to shoot this because of so many shots I missed in the first half,' then I'm not going to play well. So I just stuck with it, I just kept playing the basketball that I've played."
A basket by Pierce gave the Celtics the lead for good, 92-90, with 3:26 remaining. After Keith Van Horn missed a pair of jumpers, Pierce knocked down an 18-footer to give Boston a 94-90 advantage with 2:34 to play.
Pierce, who was second in the NBA with eight 40-point games last season, also had 12 rebounds as the Celtics defeated the Nets for the eighth time in the last 10 meetings. He was nearly perfect from the free-throw line, making 17-of-18.
Pierce's previous career high was 44 points in 113-98 win at New Jersey on March 22.
Tony Battie had 11 rebounds as the Celtics held a 60-49 advantage on the boards and won their third straight game.
Jason Kidd had 20 points, 19 assists and nine rebounds for the Nets, who shot just 30 percent (17-of-57) after halftime. Van Horn and Kerry Kittles each added 17 points for New Jersey, which is one game in front of Boston atop the Atlantic Division. Van Horn pulled down nine rebounds but hit just 6-of-19 shots.
"It was just a case of too much Paul Pierce," New Jersey coach Byron Scott said. "The guy just really got it going in the second half. No matter who was on him, he was making shots. On the other end, we did a poor job of making shots. We missed a lot of easy shots. We had guys that usually would knock them down on a consistent basis not making them today. Paul was hitting his shots and that was it."
Antoine Walker scored 15 of his 25 points in the first half and had 17 rebounds before fouling out with 7.2 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Walker fouled Van Horn as the forward was setting for a 3-pointer from the left baseline. Van Horn missed his first free throw before making the next two to tie the score, 90-90.
"Just to watch Paul perform in overtime after having a rough first half was tremendous," Walker said. "It's a big win for us on the road to continue our win streak. We didn't come out with the greatest of energy and New Jersey took it to us for 3 1/2 quarters and we were still able to battle back."
Boston coach Jim O'Brien was ejected with 9:27 left in the third period when he received two techincals for arguing a foul on Eric Williams. Kidd made both foul shots and after the possession, Kittles hit a 17-footer to give the Nets their largest lead, 54-37, with 9:22 to go.
The Celtics used runs of 8-0 and 9-0 to get within 64-63 after three quarters. The Nets rebuilt the lead to six points twice, the final time at 86-80 with 2:30 left. Pierce connected on a pair of free throws nine seconds later, and after Kidd missed a 3-pointer, former Net Kenny Anderson made a 19-footer to trim the margin to 86-84.
Pierce came up big defensively, blocking a jumper by Kittles. After Boston won a jump ball, Pierce made 1-of-2 free throws with 81 seconds left. Kittles missed a jumper in the lane and Pierce nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the arc to give the Celtics their first lead, 88-86, with 51 seconds to play.
Van Horn and Kidd each missed 3-pointers before Van Horn made a layup to tie the score at 88 with 32 seconds left. Anderson drove the lane and hit an off-balance layup to put Boston ahead, 90-88, with 20 seconds to go.