EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., April 23 (Ticker) -- The New Jersey Nets'
playoff journey began with a subtle but significant bump in the
The Nets became the first home team to lose in the postseason as
Nenad Krstic bumped Anthony Johnson, whose two free throws with
in the final second gave the Indiana Pacers a 90-88 victory in
their Eastern Conference first-round opener.
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Foul-plagued Jermaine O'Neal scored 11 of his 15 points in the
fourth quarter for the sixth-seeded Pacers, who again proved
their playoff mettle with patient, smart play down the stretch.
"We've been through an awful lot not only this year, but the
last few years," O'Neal said. "The guys really kept talking to
each other during timeouts. The five guys on the floor kept
telling each other just to be patient and we'll give ourselves
and opportunity to win."
Vince Carter needed 33 shots to score 31 points for the
third-seeded Nets, who are considered a dark horse for the title
and may be experiencing some deja vu. New Jersey also lost a
postseason opener at home to Indiana in 2002 - the first year
they reached the NBA Finals.
A follow slam by Carter produced the game's 15th tie at 88-88
with 32 seconds to go. The Pacers went to O'Neal, who passed out
of a double-team. The ball wound up with Austin Croshere, who
missed a corner jumper but tracked down the rebound.
Johnson, a former Net, began his move from well above the arc
with five seconds left. He got a step on Kidd and took a bump
as he rose for a runner over the 7-foot Krstic that missed as
the whistle blew with 0.9 seconds left, bringing a groan from
"I was trying to make a play," Johnson said. "The refs called
the foul and I was able to make some big free throws."
"Anthony Johnson is a guy that you can count on," Pacers coach
Rick Carlisle said. "He's just one of those guys that fits that
description. He's a major reason our team has held together
through some difficult circumstances."
Replays showed the foul appeared to be on Kidd but was called on
Krstic. Johnson drained both free throws to give Indiana the
"It looked like a foul," Carlisle said. "It was pretty clear to
me that there was a foul there and they did the right thing."
"The foul on Krstic seemed like a really, really hard call,"
Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "I didn't see a problem with it,
but I haven't seen the replay yet. The game was in the balance
for either team to take, so we are not going to look at the
officials for the reason we lost the game."
A 22-footer from the corner by Richard Jefferson bounced off the
rim as time expired, allowing the Pacers to escape with the
Stephen Jackson had 18 points and eight rebounds for the Pacers,
who had five scorers in double figures. Reserve Fred Jones,
returning from a torn ligament in his left thumb, scored 15
points and Johnson and Peja Stojakovic added 12 apiece as
Indiana shot 47 percent (30-of-64).
Krstic scored 22 points and Jefferson added 19 for the Nets, who
never led in the last six minutes.
Carter made just 12-of-33 shots but grabbed a career playoff
high 13 rebounds. He was 1-of-8 from 3-point range as the Nets
went a franchise-worst 1-of-15, undoing their team record-low
"I missed a few in a row and was like, 'Hey, I might as well try
to get to the basket,'" Carter said. "When that wasn't working
for me, I didn't know what I was going to do. I just kept at
A non-factor through three quarters, O'Neal conducted a clinic
in the low post in the final period as he worked over
Jason Collins and Cliff Robinson, both very good post defenders. He
fouled out Collins as he blew past him for a lefthanded dunk
that gave the Pacers an 85-82 lead with 1:55 to go.
"I just kept telling myself the entire time on the bench to stay
focused and be patient, and hopefully I'll get the opportunity
to be effective in the fourth quarter," O'Neal said. "I think
the difference now is that that the team is really focused."
Krstic sank a jumper, but Jeff Foster put home a follow shot and
a free throw around a drive by Jefferson, leaving the Pacers
with an 88-86 lead with 46 seconds remaining.
Despite O'Neal's early struggles, the Pacers hung in as Carter
repeatedly settled for jumpers instead of attacking the basket.
Indiana held a 50-46 halftime lead but managed just 14 points
in the third quarter, when O'Neal picked up his fourth foul.
Carter benefited from a couple of questionable foul calls down
With 4:35 remaining, the All-Star made a scoop shot despite
running over Johnson - who appeared set in the lane - and fell
very hard to the floor on his back. With 3:21 left, he drove
the right side and converted another scoop, with Jackson getting
whistled. Carter failed to convert his free throws after each
basket, both times leaving the game tied.
"It's all sore right now, but come game time (Tuesday), I'll be
ready to go," Carter said. "If I feel sore now, it's going to
be really sore (Monday)."