Thu, May 08, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Celtics wonder where it all went wrong against Nets

AP , EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY

There was frustration and anger in Jim O'Brien's voice as the Boston coach spoke about the Celtics' loss in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The New Jersey Nets, the team that beat the Celtics in the conference finals a year ago and the one most experts picked to dispatch Boston again, were there for the taking Monday night.

Turnovers. Missed shots. Foul problems. All the things the Celtics needed New Jersey to do wrong in the opener of the best-of-seven series happened, and Boston couldn't take advantage in a 97-93 loss.

"I feel the same as last night," O'Brien said Tuesday before the Celtics practiced at Seton Hall University in South Orange. "We're all angry we lost the game."

While he tried not to say much about the game, O'Brien's frustration showed when asked about the Nets' fastbreak, the one thing that makes Jason Kidd and New Jersey tick.

"They didn't play well and we didn't play well," O'Brien said. "It came down to us stopping them in transition. That was our No. 1 goal and we did not get the job done. You don't deserve to win when you do that."

New Jersey outscored the Celtics 23-5 on the fastbreak and outrebounded them 44-30.

Still, Boston had chances in the final minutes.

Antoine Walker, Tony Delk and Paul Pierce missed 3-pointers that could have tied the game or put Boston ahead.

"We felt like we let that game slip away," Pierce said a little more than 12 hours after scoring 34 points but missing a game-tying shot with fewer than 10 seconds to play. "We're all disappointed in the loss, that's natural.

"If you're not disappointed then you shouldn't be here. Everybody should be [angry] and ready to do something in Game 2."

The Celtics will get that chance Wednesday night at Continental Airlines Arena.

It's a game the Nets also are eager to play.

"We didn't play well. We know that," said forward Kenyon Martin, who led the Nets with 21 points despite picking up three early fouls. "We know that we're going to play better.

"We're going to elevate our game to where we usually play. And when we play, even if we don't put the ball in the hole, we're going to defend. That's the message that has to be sent. We can defend."

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