Nets grab final spot in playoffs

Thursday, April 21, 2005

BOSTON -- Vince Carter and the New Jersey Nets clinched the NBA's last playoff berth with a shaky start and a strong finish -- the same way the team's season went.

Carter shook off an early injury and scored 24 of his 37 points in the second half to lead the Nets' comeback from a 19-point, second-quarter deficit in a 102-93 win over the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night.

"I just wanted to add some drama," he joked, a smile in place of the look of pain. "I knew I didn't do anything bad. I was just uncomfortable."

New Jersey needed to make one final rally after the Celtics used an 8-0 run to close to 96-93 with 1:16 left. The Nets scored the final six points, all on free throws, then shook hands with Boston players and walked calmly off the court.

The Nets got the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference and play at top-seeded Miami on Sunday. The Celtics already had clinched the No. 3 seed and open their first-round series at home Saturday night against Indiana or Philadelphia.

New Jersey started the season with a 2-11 record but finished with a 15-4 surge. Still, the Nets went into the final day of the regular season competing with Cleveland for the last playoff spot. Had the Nets lost, they would have been eliminated because Cleveland won at Toronto.

Both teams finished 42-40, but the Nets had the tiebreaker edge by winning the season series over the Cavaliers.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers did not use his best two players, Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker, in the fourth quarter.

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