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New Jersey 97, Boston 93
Nets Slip by Celts in Game 1

Kenyon Martin threw it down with authority as Walter McCarty looked on.
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., May 5 (Ticker) -- Kenyon Martin and Jason Kidd are helping the New Jersey Nets overcome their reputation for missing clutch free throws.

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Martin scored 21 points, including four from the line in the final minute, as the Nets held on for a 97-93 victory over the Boston Celtics in Game One of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.

New Jersey has lost numerous games this season due to poor free-throw shooting in the final minutes, including Game Four of their first-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks. But free throws made the difference in this one as the Nets were 14-of-16 from the line in the fourth quarter.

"We learn from our mistakes," Martin said. "In the Milwaukee game, we missed a lot of free throws and that cost us the game, so we don't want to put ourselves in that position again. Guys realized it was time to step up and knock down free throws, and we did."

"It's always important to make your free throws, especially in a series like this and especially in the fourth quarter," Nets coach Byron Scott added. "We had one bad stretch in Milwaukee, but I really don't worry about our guys on the free-throw line when the game is on the line."

New Jersey took the lead for good at 87-85 on a pair of free throws by Jason Collins with 3:16 remaining. Kidd followed with a layup 30 seconds later, but Boston's Paul Pierce - who scored 34 points - responded with a 3-pointer.

The Nets had a 91-90 lead when Martin was fouled trying to dunk with 45 seconds left. Celtics forward Antoine Walker, who struggled to guard Martin throughout, fouled out on the play and Martin made 1-of-2 free throws.

Boston's Tony Battie fouled out at the other end when he was called for a loose ball foul that sent Martin to the line with 24 seconds to go. Martin sank both free throws for a 94-90 edge.

Rookie J.R. Bremer buried a 3-pointer for the Celtics with 15 seconds left, but Kidd sank two from the line at the other end for a 96-93 lead. Boston had a chance to tie, but Pierce missed an open 3-pointer before Martin capped the scoring by splitting two free throws.

"It felt great," Pierce said of the potential tying shot. "I thought I had a great look and it felt good coming out of my hands. What more could I ask for? We were down three and I had a good look, especially at the end of the game."

After shooting 50 percent (26-of-53) in the first three quarters, the Celitcs made just 7-of-22 shots, including 3-of-12 3-pointers, in the final 12 minutes.

"This is a tough loss for us in a hard-fought game," Boston coach Jim O'Brien said. "I felt that we were in position to win the basketball game and we just didn't get it done down the stretch."

Kerry Kittles scored 17 points and Kidd finished with 15, nine assists and six rebounds for New Jersey, which ended up 23-of-28 at the line.

Richard Jefferson had 13 points and nine rebounds and Aaron Williams added 12 and a playoff career-high nine as the Nets held a 44-30 rebounding advantage.

New Jersey scored 23 fast-break points but shot just 42 percent (34-of-81), committed 18 turnovers and went nearly seven minutes without a basket in the second half.

"We made some bad decisions and we took a lot of bad shots," Scott said. "This is one of those games earlier in the season we probably would have lost, but I think winning some of the close games in the last series got us ready for this series."

Pierce made 9-of-17 shots, 15-of-20 free throws and dished out eight assists but committed eight of Boston's 15 turnovers.

"I don't think you can turn the ball over 15 times against the Nets. It gives them too many chances in transition," O'Brien said. "We have to hold them to less than 23 points on the break in order to win."

Eric Williams scored 15 points and Walker and Walter McCarty added 14 apiece for the Celtics.

Game Two is Wednesday in New Jersey.

Boston made its first four shots, highlighted by a pair of 3-pointers from McCarty, and jumped out to its largest lead at 10-2.

The Celtics had a 45-40 cushion with 2:38 left in the second quarter, but New Jersey closed the period with a 9-1 run and took a 49-46 halftime advantage on former Celtic Rodney Rogers' 3-pointer with 62 seconds left.

Kittles buried three 3-pointers in the opening three minutes of the second half to extend the Nets' lead to 62-52. New Jersey had its largest advantage at 68-57 after Kidd made three free throws with 7:24 remaining.

The Celtics trailed by 10 with 6:44 to go in the third quarter but carried a 16-2 run into the final period during the Nets' prolonged drought.

"That third quarter, I thought we got off to a great start, but then all of a sudden, we went haywire a little bit," Scott said. "(The Celtics) were never out of this game. Never fall asleep when you are playing against these guys."

Battie capped the burst with a layup to give Boston a 76-72 lead.

Rogers made two free throws at the 10:04 mark and New Jersey did not trail after Aaron Williams' dunk forged a 76-76 tie 35 seconds later.