Nets Finish Off Pacers, Will Take On Miami in Second Round

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The New York Sun

INDIANAPOLIS – The Nets overcame Anthony Johnson’s 40-point effort to beat the Indiana Pacers 96-90 last night and advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Richard Jefferson scored 30 points and Vince Carter added 24 for the Nets, who won the best-of-sev en series 4-2. Jason Kidd fell just two points shy of a triple-double with eight points, 11 assists, and 11 rebounds.

Jermaine O’Neal scored 21 points for the Pacers, who played without Peja Stojakovic for the fourth time in the series because of a sore right knee.The team’s second-leading scorer in the regular season, Stojakovic played in Indiana’s only two wins in the series.

The Nets will play the Miami Heat in the second round of the playoffs.

Every time it looked like New Jersey might pull away, Johnson, a former Net, had an answer. He scored the first 12 points of the fourth quarter for Indiana, then Austin Croshere dunked and O’Neal followed with a basket to cut the Nets’ lead to 87-85 with 3:25 left.

Nenad Krstic scored and drew O’Neal’s fifth foul with 2:30 left. Krstic converted the three-point play to bump New Jersey’s lead to 90-85.

O’Neal scored again to cut the deficit to 90-87, but Carter blew by him for a layup with 1:07 left, knowing O’Neal wouldn’t risk a sixth foul, to give the Nets a 92-87 lead.

Johnson hit a 3-pointer with 57 seconds left to make it 92-90, and after a miss by Carter, Indiana had a chance to tie. Johnson missed in close and O’Neal got the rebound, but Jefferson blocked his putback.

New Jersey worked time off the clock and the Pacers fouled Krstic with 14 seconds left. He made both free throws for a 94-90 lead. Johnson then missed a 3-pointer and Jefferson made two free throws.

New Jersey outrebounded the Pacers 44-30.

The Pacers shot 61% in the first quarter to take a 26-21 lead. Johnson scored 12 points in the period while drawing fouls from both Carter and Kidd on baskets.

Carter shot 1-for-6 in the first quarter but fueled a second-quarter comeback. He scored the last eight points of the half as New Jersey tied the score 41-all.

Kidd missed all five of his field goal attempts in the first half, several of them badly, while struggling to guard Johnson. Jefferson picked up the slack by scoring 14 points.

Kidd made two 3-pointers early in the third quarter to give the Nets a 49-45 lead, then Carter and Jefferson combined for 17 points in a 19-11 run that gave the Nets a 68-56 lead.

Danny Granger hit two 3-pointers late in the quarter to help the Pacers cut New Jersey’s lead to 73-69 heading into the final quarter.

Carter entered the game as the only player among the top 12 in the playoffs in points, rebounds, assists, and steals.

Nets forward Jason Collins left the game early in the third quarter after catching an elbow from Croshere, but he returned.

***

HEAT 113, BULLS 96 Shaquille O’Neal scored 30 points and grabbed 20 rebounds as the Miami Heat won their first-ever playoff game in Chicago by beating the Bulls 113-96 last night fir a 4-2 series victory.

Dwyane Wade added 23 points for the Heat, who closed out the Bulls after winning the first two games of the series only to lose the next two.

Five Bulls scored in double figures, including Kurt Hinrich, who scored 23 points and dished out six assists. Ben Gordon added 21 points for the Bulls, and Andres Nocioni chipped in 20.

Led by O’Neal, the Heat dominated inside, outrebounding the Bulls 51-34.


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