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On this day in NBA history, the Nets blew a 25-point third quarter lead to Celtics in Game 3 of 2002 ECF

May 25, 2021 0 comments
Photo courtesy of Andrew Bernstein
Celtics fans remember it like it was yesterday and Nets fans were hoping they would forget, but May 25, 2003, will live in infamy in the battle between Atlantic Division foes. New Jersey was crusing in the second half of Game 3 of the 2002 Eastern Conference with a 25-point advantage in Boston and well on its way to a 2-1 series edge over the Celtics.

Leadig 74-59 with under a minute to play in the third quarter, many anticipated that the final frame would be extended garbage time with each team's starters getting rest on the bench.

Instead, Boston staged a comeback of historic proportions, storming back to outscore the Nets 41-16 in the fourth quarter and clinch the biggest comeback in NBA playoff history, at the time. Jason Kidd's Cinderella Nets encountered their first sign of adversity in the midst of a magical run and instead of folding after an embarrassing defeat, they rebounded in Game 4 to escape Boston with a win after Paul Pierce missed potential game tying free throws in the closing seconds.

The New Jersey Nets won both Games 5 and 6 to end Boston's season and clinch the franchise's first ever NBA Finals berth, the first of two consecutive. This year's Nets are not anticipating any catastrophic blown leads in the series with the Celtics, a series in which they're heavily favored, but the painful memory for fans in the New York Metropolitan area is a constant reminder of what the great Yogi Berra exclaimed, "It ain't over, till it's over!' Since the Nets monumental collapse in Game 3 of 2002 the Eastern Conference Finals, they've gone 8-0 against the Celtics including a convincing Game 1 victory this year with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden combining for 82-points.

The 2020-2021 Nets are not the beloved underdogs like the Kidd-led teams of the early-2000s, in fact just the opposite, but long-time fans of the franchise are still cautiously optimistic that this year's title-favored Nets will deliver on that promise.

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