When Boston Celtics coach Rick Pitino sent the second string into the game on Friday night, he wasn't giving it up - he was turning it up.
The Celtics' "press unit" cut a 17-point deficit to six, then the starters came back in to finish off New Jersey 100-95 and send the Nets to their sixth consecutive loss.
"I'm glad our bench really turned it around. I take my hat off to them," said starter Paul Pierce, who had 19 points, including two free throws with 3.8 seconds to clinch it. "I thought coach was going to let them play the whole fourth quarter."
"Our first unit just thought, 'These guys got us back in the game and we better not screw it up,"' said Pitino, whose team improved to 17-7 at home and snapped a two-game losing streak.
"This team works hard, but it is so fragile it just splinters," New Jersey coach Don Casey said. "We have to get the pieces back."
New Jersey led 74-57 with 3:24 left in the third quarter when the Celtics put Dana Barros, Walter McCarty and Doug Overton on the floor to join Battie and Adrian Griffin. The full-court pressure helped whittle the lead to six points, 82-76, with 9:55 left.
Pitino put most of the starters back in with 8:07 left. It was 86-80 when Pierce made one free throw and Barros, who had missed his three previous 3-point attempts, hit one to cut the Nets' lead to 86-84.
"Dana never misses four in a row. Not with good looks like that," Celtics forward Antoine Walker said. "I'd bet money on that."
Walker set Battie up for a dunk to tie it 86-all with 4:50 left. Kendall Gill beat the 24-second clock to give the Nets an 88-86 lead and, after Pierce hit his first free throw, Battie slammed down the rebound on the second to make it 89-88 Boston.
"Battie was huge for them in the fourth quarter," Van Horn said. "Their second unit beat us with pure energy."
The teams traded baskets until Scottie Burrell's 3-pointer gave the Nets a 95-94 lead. But Anderson pulled up at the side of the lane to sink the game-winner with 48 seconds left.
It was 47-all when New Jersey scored 10 of the next 11 points to take a 57-48 lead into the half. Burrell had 10 points in the last 2:50 of the half.
The Nets posted an 8-0 run in the third quarter to take a 74-57 lead with 3:39 left in the third. They still led by 17 with 48 seconds left in the quarter when Battie hit a short jumper and McCarty hit a 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds left to cut the gap to 12 points.
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