INDIANAPOLIS, May 4 (Ticker) -- Despite Anthony Johnson's best effort,
the New Jersey Nets are the ones moving on.
Richard Jefferson scored 30 points and the Nets overcame a
career night by Johnson and advanced to the Eastern Conference
semifinals with a 96-90 victory over the Indiana Pacers in Game
6 of their first-round series.
NBA TV highlights from Nets-Pacers:
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Vince Carter added 24 points and Jason Kidd came within two
points of his ninth career playoff triple-double for the
third-seeded Nets, who won four of the last five games from the
sixth-seeded Pacers after dropping the series opener.
"We knew going in that this wasn't a six seed," New Jersey coach
Lawrence Frank said. "We were fortunate that Peja (Stojakovic)
was only able to play in two games. We were under no illusion
that this wasn't going to be a hard-fought series, that was
going to go down to the wire."
A former backup point guard to Kidd on New Jersey teams that
reached the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003, Johnson did his best to
force a decisive seventh game as he scored a career-high 40
points on 16-of-23 shooting. The nine-year veteran had never
scored more than 27 points in a game.
"After Game 5, we saw each other on the way to the bus, and
he said he was going to go for 40," Kidd said. "On the ride home
I said there was no way he was going for 40. He might attempt
it. Tonight, it felt like he wasn't going to miss a shot."
"There are a few guys who stepped up in unbelievable fashion
throughout the year and Anthony Johnson is one of them," Pacers
coach Rick Carlisle said. "Tonight, he continued to prove he
belongs as a starting caliber point guard."
But the Nets' quartet of Jefferson, Carter, Kidd and Nenad Krstic, who scored 17 points, was just a bit too much to handle
in the end.
Jefferson and Carter scored 10 points apiece and Kidd added all eight
of his in the third quarter, when the Nets took the lead for
The trio of Jefferson, Carter and Kidd combined for all the
scoring in a 16-6 run in the first five minutes of the third
that gave the Nets a 57-47 lead. They led by at least 11 points
before the Pacers closed to 73-69 entering the final period.
A 15-foot jumper by Jefferson with 5:11 remaining gave the Nets
an 87-78 lead. But the Pacers refused to quit behind Johnson,
who scored 15 points in the final period.
Indiana got as close as 92-90 with 56 seconds remaining on
Johnson's third 3-pointer.
"It bittersweet," Johnson said. "I've never scored 40 points in
any organized game, so it felt good. I just wish that it could
have come in a winning situation, where we were going back to
New Jersey for Game 7."
After Carter missed on the other end, Johnson misfired on a
jumper in the lane and Jermaine O'Neal had his attempt blocked
from behind by Jefferson. Krstic then sank two free throws with
14 seconds left to seal things.
"It was one of those situations where you try to get the ball
back up on the glass quickly," O'Neal said. "You're looking
back up at the basket and can't see the people behind you."
"He (Johnson) was the engine for that team," Kidd said. "He had
a wonderful series . I knew he wouldn't quit, but I think he got
tired at the end. He did so much to try to get his team back
to New Jersey, but the last two shots that he needed to hit, he
couldn't. I told him I'd pay for his flight back."
Kidd finished with 12 rebounds and 11 assists for New Jersey,
which will meet second-seeded Miami. The Nets won three
of the four meetings between the teams during the regular
O'Neal added 21 points and rookie Danny Granger 13 for the
Pacers, who again were without Peja Stojakovic (knee).
Stojakovic missed three games in the series with a sore knee and
the Pacers lost each contest.
"New Jersey was the better team," O'Neal said. "We were
undermanned and, I guess the time wasn't right for us."