Celtics playing for pride tonight. Jackie MacMullan says don’t hate the Nets, they’re a wonderful team and great group of guys. Sorry Jackie, I hate the Nets. I can’t even grudgingly admire them, especially when the New York media is saying things like this bit from Mike Vaccaro on Saturday:

This is why the Nets are going back to the NBA Finals. This is why they are so clearly the class of the Eastern Conference, alone on an island, so far ahead of the rest of the field that it almost seems a shame they actually should be forced to play the requisite games to qualify.

Can you imagine anyone in Boston writing that sentence about any team here? I think not. No thank you, I’ll continue to hate NJ and the Nets…goodness knows we have enough reason to hate those swamps. The Patriots got eliminated from the playoffs when the New York Jets, playing at the Meadowlands in NJ won their last game, the Bruins got knocked out by the NJ Devils, playing next door, and it looks like the Celtics will be knocked out playing the Nets, who reside in the same building. But who’s counting? Mark Murphy says the Celtics mantra today is to just keep it simple. Kevin McNamara says the Celtics are bravely just looking at this as another huge challenge. Shira Springer says golly, a win sure would be swell for these Celtics. Steve Bulpett says that the Celtics have to take some of the blame for fan behavior, since they trash talk, and that the fans tonight have a chance to avoid further damaging their reputation…they should cheer the Nets if they win. Jerry Trecker notes that while the Celtics may fall, we’ve seen the rise of Paul Pierce into the elite of the NBA in these playoffs. Mark Blaudschun looks at the Nets hoping to take care of business and close out the series tonight. Rich Thompson says tonights game rests on the shoulders of Antoine Walker, who needs to not only overcome his own bad play, but the incident with Stewart Berg as well. I realize that there may be more than one Stewart Berg in Newton, but I wonder if he’s the same guy who claimed to have been assaulted by a “gang” of bicycle couriers in downtown Boston a few years ago. If it is the same guy, I wonder if his mouth got him in trouble in that instance, too. (note: apparently he is the same guy, someone mentioned that in an article over the weekend, I missed it.) Christopher Price says that the Celtics are in need of some old fashioned Celtic luck. Bill Reynolds wishes he could be Joumana Kidd…he loves Jason too. Thompson also writes that Pierce is striving to remain positive despite the high odds stacked against the Celtics. Michael Gee’s pay column looks at fan booing, and Stewart Berg, he writes:

Stewart Berg, 42, of Newton, got into a beef with Walker, several of the Celtic co-captain's friends, and FleetCenter security in the waning moments of Boston's 94-76 loss to the Nets on Friday night. As a good American, Berg is doubtless preparing to sue the pants off all those other parties.

Do you know what it costs to have a Fleet seat close enough to the Celts' bench for Walker to hear you? Berg has spent a fortune that could have been better employed on Jack Daniels, a personal lingerie model, therapy, or all of the above - just to be a nasty annoyance to anyone within earshot.

What for? Let's assume this clown loves the Celtics and wants them to win. How does it help his team to harass a slumping star whose major on-court psychological problem is caring too much and trying too hard when things go wrong?

Watch it Michael, he might sue you (and me) too. Calling him a clown…is that crossing a line? Springer’s notebook says Pierce’s leg is feeling a bit better. Murphy’s notebook looks at the Celtics not being affected by the Ainge hiring.

Another thrilling Sox comeback falls just short. Michael Smith reports on the Sox not going down until the very end. Jeff Horrigan looks at Derek Lowe’s road woes continuing. Steven Krasner also looks at the comeback that fell just short of bailing out Lowe. David Heuschkel has Grady Little wanting to pin the blame on the carpet at the Metrodome rather than Lowe’s performance. Gordon Edes has a further look at Derek Lowe and his struggles away from Fenway. Pat Borzi looks at Brandon Lyon, the closer of the moment. George Kimball looks at Jeremy Giambi, who had a breakout night at the plate last night, but in a losing effort. Borzi also has a look at the last play of the game, where the first baseman was pulled off the bag…it appears the ump made the correct call. Yesterday’s Baseball Notes, by Gordon Edes looked at Mo Vaughn’s struggles since leaving Boston. It’s interesting how everyone in the media loves to slam Dan Duquette for letting Clemens go, but he was dead right in not giving Mo what he wanted. Edes doesn’t mention that, I heard someone mention it on the radio recently, but otherwise it’s a quiet story. Horrigan’s notebook says that Robert Person is likely to be called up in time for tomorrow night’s game. The Globe notebook says John Burkett doesn’t have to worry about giving up home run # 500 to Rafael Palmeiro tomorrow night, as the milestone has already been reached. Heuschkel’s notebook also looks at the milestone, while Krasner’s notebook looks at Giambi settling in at the plate.

Worth reading is yesterday’s article by Ron Borges on Patriots fullback Fred McCrary. A fascinating look at the former prison guard. Great job by Borges. Tom Curran today has an article on running back Derek Watson, likely here on a “one strike and you’re out” plan.

TNT has Celtics/Nets at 8:00. ESPN has Mighty Ducks/Wild at 7:30. TBS & ESPN2 have Braves/Dodgers at 10:00.