Vince Carter is a .381 three-point shooter for his career. He enjoys shooting from long-range, sometimes well beyond the arc. Through the first three games of the series, Carter had attempted 20 shots from downtown, connecting on only four.
In game four, he decided it was time for a change. He attempted just two threes and had his most efficient scoring game of the series, 28 points on just 15 field goal attempts. That's a ratio of 1.87 points per shot, as opposed to his 1.26 ratio during the regular season.
It was the same story in Game 5. Carter attempted a couple of threes early, but he often passed up an open jumper in order to take the ball to the hoop. The result: 13-of-24 from the field for 28 points, including the two biggest baskets of the night.
Carter looked to drive on Tuesday.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images
With less than a minute to go and the Nets hanging on to a three-point lead, Carter pump faked from beyond the arc, let the defender go by, then stepped up and stuck a short jumper from the elbow. After a pair of Fred Jones free throws made it a one-possession game once again, the Nets gave Carter the ball on the left wing.
He knew what he needed to do. After letting a couple of extra seconds tick off the clock, he drove past Danny Granger to the left and saw Jermaine O'Neal step up to take a charge. He somehow managed to angle his body in order to avoid contact while dunking with his left hand. That sealed the game for the Nets and put the Pacers on the brink of elimination.
If this were the regular season, or even earlier in this series, Carter might have let a few more fly from deep. But as the series has gone on, he has realized how important each possession is.
"My mentality now is just to attack, be aggressive and be efficient for my team."
That seems to be working.
In the Zone
Carter was not the only Net struggling from deep. Through the first four games, the Nets were shooting .237 from beyond the arc. Nothing changed on Tuesday, as they shot just 4-of-16 from downtown. They were successful taking the ball to the basket though, so with the Pacers hampered by foul trouble and an already short roster, Indiana decided to switch things up defensively.
"(Assistant coach) Kevin O'Neill came up with the idea of playing some zone," Rick Carlisle said. "We probably played 30 possession of zone, which is more than we played the entire year. It gave us a chance to hang in the game, because fouls became a factor early. With zone, a little bit of it is pot-luck. You have to hope they miss some shots."
It kept the Nets at bay for a while, but they eventually got used to it.
"It kinda caught us off-guard," Jason Kidd said. "As the game went along, we started to understand what was open. There was a period where we were just settling, but in the long haul, we made the right adjustments at the right time."
It may have helped for a while here in Game 5, but don't look for as much zone from the Pacers on Thursday.
Everyone knows what the Pacers have been through in the last two years. Suspensions, injures and trade requests. The list goes on and on. It has continued on here in this series. Peja Stojakovic has missed three of the first five games (all Pacer losses), Jamaal Tinsley has played a total of seven minutes, and after tweaking his back in pregame warmups, Jeff Foster sat in Game 5.
Obviously, it hasn't been easy.
"It's unfortunate, but we're still trying to fight out there," Jermaine O'Neal said. "We're still trying to win games."
They have made it a tougher series than many have expected, but they will get no sympathy from the Nets.
"Injuries are a part of the game," Richard Jefferson said. "I remember losing a Game 7 (in 2004 against Detroit) where my point guard didn't score because he had a torn up knee and he needed reconstructive surgery a month later."