Celtics overcome record odds, top Nets in Game 3

Sunday, May 26, 2002

BOSTON -- Paul Pierce and the Boston Celtics pulled off the greatest fourth-quarter comeback in NBA playoff history.

Pierce scored 19 of his 28 points in the final 12 minutes Saturday night as Boston overcame a 21-point deficit to beat the New Jersey Nets 94-90 in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals.

No team had ever come back from more than an 18-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter, and Pierce certainly didn't look like a candidate to pull off a miracle as he missed 12 of his first 14 shots.

But he began driving the ball to the basket with reckless abandon in the final quarter, and the Celtics never relented as they outscored the Nets 41-16 in the fourth to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

The previous largest comeback in a fourth quarter was 18 points when the Phoenix Suns came back from a 100-82 deficit to beat Houston 124-117 in overtime on May 11, 1994.

Many of the Celtics raced to center court as the final buzzer sounded, and Boston coach Jim O'Brien pumped his fist in what was for him a rare display of delight.

Pierce jumped atop the scorer's table and yelled to the crowd, which had to have been as loud as any of the mobs that witnessed any of the team's 16 championships.

"I've never been a part of anything like this in my life," said Antoine Walker, who added 23 points and helped keep the Celtics within striking range -- if being down by as many as 26 can rightfully be called striking range -- until the fourth.

Pierce scored the most fourth-quarter points of anyone in the NBA this season, with an astonishing 57 of his 552 points in the period coming in Boston's four regular-season games against New Jersey.

KINGS-NETS: As Chris Webber rolled out of bed late morning at the Sacramento Kings' posh hotel, he smiled at the possibilities of the coming days.

"What do we think we're doing?" Webber wondered aloud. "I don't know, I just got up. We're honestly not surprised. We're confident. We feel good, but no way is it time to stop."

The Kings enter Game 4 of the Western Conference finals today with a chance to push the Los Angeles Lakers to the brink of playoff elimination. That's no small feat, since no team has taken a playoff series from the Lakers since Phil Jackson became their coach nearly three years ago.

Webber and his teammates were at the peak of their considerable skills Friday in a 103-90 victory that gave Sacramento a 2-1 series lead. The game was a blowout until Los Angeles rallied in the final minutes, and it silenced a Staples Center crowd that rarely sees its two-time champions dominated so thoroughly.

-- From wire reports

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