BOSTON, March 18 (Ticker) --
If the New Jersey Nets needed a remedy for their recent struggles, the potion came in the form of Richard Jefferson
and the Boston Celtics.
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Jefferson matched a career high with 27 points and Kenyon Martin
added 22 as the Nets dominated the Celtics for the third straight time this season with a 87-74 triumph.
New Jersey was just 6-11 since the All-Star break and fresh off Sunday's disheartening loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, which
reduced their Atlantic Division lead to one-half game.
But the Nets rebounded to down the Celtics for the second time in six days. They moved three games in front of the third-place Celtics in the Atlantic.
The combination of forwards Jefferson and Martin accounted for 13 of the team's 20 first-half baskets and over half its points. The duo played a big part in a superior transition game that outscored the Celtics 23-5 on the fast break.
"Anytime our forwards -- especially our starting forwards -- play well, we have pretty good games," Nets coach Byron Scott said.
Jefferson, who also scored 27 points in a win against San Antonio on Nov. 13, was 11-of-20 from the field with seven
rebounds. He reached his career best by the end of the third period.
The second-year pro out of Arizona had been struggling of late, with just 21 hoops in his last five games.
"There was a lot of people struggling," Jefferson said. "We were struggling as a team. And when one or two people are
struggling, it really affects the team."
"Before this I was not shooting the ball well," he added. "I wasn't forcing shots and I wasn't taking bad shots, they just
were not falling. Tonight I was getting the same looks; they were just going down."
Martin scored 17 points in the first half. He also and set a career high by hitting 12 of his 14 free throws.
With three days off after Saturday's win in Detroit, Boston shot just 1-of-21 from three-point range and 34 percent (27-of-80) overall. Paul Pierce scored 23 points but left after the third quarter with a twisted left ankle.
"If they hit more of those threes, then maybe the outcome is different," said Nets All-Star point guard Jason Kidd, who had nine points, 13 rebounds and seven assists.
"You know, they played into our head," said Pierce, who will play Wednesday in Indiana. "We're not executing our game plan
when we play a team like New Jersey. For some reason, they have our number and we know the things that hurt us against them and we continue to do them."
The Celtics kept the game close until the Nets went on a 15-0 run from the end of the first half until the 10-minute mark of
the third period, opening a 61-43 lead.
Jefferson gave his team its largest lead at 72-50 after sinking a pair of free throws at the 4:41 mark.
Celtics All-Star forward Antoine Walker, guarded by Martin for most of the game, was held to 14 points on 6-of-15 shooting. Walker, a 40 percent shooter this season, has shot just 28 percent (19-of-67) against the Nets this season.
"You know, it's kind of funny," said Walker, who was 3-of-15 in last week's loss at New Jersey. "You look at the games we've
played against them - outside of the first one -- we don't make open shots and a lot of things don't go our way when we play
"It just one of those teams that just has your number in the course of the season. And they just had our number this season."