Thanks to Reggie Miller, it was one of the most dramatic first-round playoff games in NBA history. Thanks to Jason Kidd, it wound up going to the top-seeded New Jersey Nets, who outlasted the eighth-seeded Pacers 120-109 in double overtime to close out the series in Game 5 on Thursday night.
The Nets advance to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 1984, where they'll face Charlotte beginning Sunday at home.
For the Pacers, who finished the regular season 42-40, the postseason ends in the first round for the second year in a row. They'll pick 14th in the June 26 NBA Draft.
There were more twists and turns than Lombard Street in this game, with 16 ties and 13 lead changes in the final 34 minutes, as Miller kept making improbable plays to keep the Pacers alive.
Miller and the Pacers ran out of steam in the second overtime, missing seven of eight shots and committing three turnovers as the Nets outscored them 13-2 in the second overtime as Miller went 0-for-4 from the field. The Pacers didn't score in the final 2:44, committing three turnovers in four critical possessions as the Nets pulled away.
INSIDE THE BOX SCORE
The Pacers shot .483 but were undone by familiar problems; they committed 21 turnovers that led to 25 New Jersey points, and allowed 18 offensive rebounds that led to 30 second-chance points for the Nets. Miller's 31 points came on 10-of-23 shooting overall, 6-of-14 from the arc, and he added four assists. Ron Mercer had his best game since joining the Pacers, scoring 20 points on 10-of-16 shooting. Jermaine O'Neal had 18 points and 10 rebounds. Brad Miller had 14 points and a career-high 17 rebounds. Ron Artest fouled out after scoring 14 points.
The Nets, who shot .441 but committed just 11 turnovers and outrebounded the Pacers 51-46, three players carried the load. Kidd had 31 on 11-of-26 shooting, adding eight rebounds, seven assists and four steals. Martin had 29 points on 12-of-23 shooting with eight rebounds and four assists. Van Horn fouled out after scoring 27 on 9-of-19 shooting. Those three combined for 87 points; the other six Nets totaled 33.
New Jersey, as expected, came out aggressively at home, putting together a 14-4 run to open a 19-9 lead midway through the first period. Pacers coach Isiah Thomas then went to the bench, bringing in Mercer, then Kevin Ollie, and the Pacers responded with a 15-4 run of their own to take a 24-23 lead. The Nets gathered themselves and rebuilt a 33-26 lead early in the second quarter after a 10-4 run but the Pacers finished the half strong, outscoring the Nets 11-5 in the final three minutes, with O'Neal throwing down three dunks, sending the teams into the break at 51-all.
Van Horn came alive to spark the Nets in the third quarter, scoring 13 points in less than four minutes, including a 3-pointer that put the home team up 69-66, but the Pacers one again brought it to a tie, 79-all, entering the fourth quarter. Mercer started the second half at the point in place of Jamaal Tinsley, who lasted just six first-quarter minutes on a sprained right knee and did not return. He did, however, pick up a technical foul for interfering with a Van Horn 3-pointer from the bench.
The Pacers started the fourth quarter terribly. With Ollie resting and no point guard on the floor, they missed six of seven shots and committed six turnovers in the first 6½ minutes as the Nets scored nine unanswered points for a 90-81 lead. Once Ollie returned to the game, the Pacers stabilized. Though Ron Artest fouled out with 4:49 remaining, leading to extended minutes for Austin Croshere, the Pacers countered with a 10-2 run to close to 92-91. Kidd hit a jumper to push the lead to three with 1:05 remaining, then Miller missed a wide-open 3-pointer with 50 seconds left, setting up the dramatic sequence of events in the final seconds.
Reggie Miller averaged 23.6 points in the series. In the Pacers' three losses, he averaged 29.0; in the two victories, he averaged 15.5. ... Croshere scored just one point in 18 minutes after scoring 18 points in Game 4. ... In the final three games, Mercer averaged 12.3 points and 30.3 minutes. ... Ollie had 19 points and 17 assists in the last two games, but missed two big shots - a layup with the Pacers trailing 96-93 in the final seconds of regulation, and a running 12-footer with the Pacers down 105-104 in the final 30 seconds of the first overtime. ... After scoring 30 points in the opener, Jermaine O'Neal averaged 14.0 points and 6.8 rebounds in the final four games. ... The Pacers averaged 18.2 turnovers in the series. ... Kidd averaged 22.2 points, 8.4 assists, 6.6 rebounds and 2.2 steals in the series but was 2-of-18 from the 3-point line. ... Martin averaged 19.4 points and 7.2 rebounds to win the matchup with O'Neal. ... Kerry Kittles, who hit the late 3-pointer to win Game 3, averaged just 6.2 points on .326 shooting in the series. ... The Nets outscored the Pacers 102-52 on second-chance points and 204-148 on points in the paint.