INDIANAPOLIS, April 27 (Ticker) -- Jermaine O'Neal said he would find a way and he did.

No longer shackled by foul trouble, O'Neal collected 37 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks in a huge game as the Indiana Pacers put the pressure on the New Jersey Nets with a 107-95 victory.

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Anthony Johnson scored a playoff career-high 25 points and handed out eight assists for the sixth-seeded Pacers, who dominated the second half and opened a surprising 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference first-round series over the third-seeded Nets.

In the first two games at New Jersey, O'Neal - a perennial All-Star - had just eight baskets and 10 fouls. After Game Two, he complained about the officiating but added that he would "find a way."

"After studying the tape (from Games 1 and 2) over and over again, I got a better feel for how they are playing me," O'Neal said. "I realized that, with the defensive sets they were using, the best thing to do is keep moving and be aggressive. It's hard for them to double when you keep moving."

Hours after being fined $15,000 for his remarks, O'Neal took it out on the Nets, who tried a handful of defenders on him with no success. Center Nenad Krstic fouled out and forwards Jason Collins and Cliff Robinson - both excellent post defenders - also had foul trouble.

"I can't tell you how many times I hit rewind over and over again," said O'Neal, who tied a playoff career high for points. "In the first two games, I was trying to fight guys off in the post with one arm and they were coming around me and stealing the ball. The tape showed me I needed to keep a body on them and get the ball in better position on the block. Tape never lies."

"He got fined $15,000?" Collins said. "Well, maybe we need to get fined, too, because there were some calls tonight that didn't go our way."

O'Neal came out firing, making his first six shots. He finished 12-of-15 from the field and also did it at the defensive end, dominating the paint with his rebounding and shot-blocking.

"Jermaine is a top player in this league," Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. "He missed a lot of games (this season) and it's taken him a while to get his conditioning and his rhythm back. Fortunately for us, he's hitting his stride at a good time."

The Pacers trailed, 55-51, at halftime despite 19 points from O'Neal, who continued to assert himself in the pivotal third quarter. As Indiana surged to a 78-70 lead, O'Neal scored 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting while New Jersey made just 3-of-18 shots.

The Nets closed to 79-76 on six straight points by Richard Jefferson, who scored 25. O'Neal answered with a fadeaway jumper and Stephen Jackson drained a 3-pointer as the Pacers began to pull away, with Johnson taking charge.

The former Net scored Indiana's next 10 points, capping the spurt with a 3-pointer and step-back jumper around a block by O'Neal to extend the advantage to 94-82 with 5:38 remaining.

"It's special (to have a game like this) during playoff time," Johnson said. "J.O. had a great game tonight and eventually they started double-teaming him, which left me free to roam. I have a job to do and that is to put the ball in the basket when my number is called."

"A.J. is playing with great awareness and great savvy," Carlisle said. "He just looks like a guy who understands the pulse of the team he runs. He knows his team as well as any player I've had an opportunity to coach."

Six free throws by O'Neal - who was 13-of-14 from the line - sealed it at 102-89 with 2:58 to go.

"The guy (O'Neal) missed four shots, including free throws," Jefferson said. "The difference was that he was playing at home. A lot of things tend to go your way when you're at home."

Johnson made 8-of-13 shots and grabbed five rebounds as he outplayed Nets star guard Jason Kidd, who had 14 points, six assists and six rebounds. In the fourth quarter, Johnson outscored Kidd, 13-0.

"(Kidd) is a great defender, but I know him pretty well," Johnson said. "I know what I can do and what I can't do. Tonight, it worked out for me and we got a much-needed win. Now we have a chance to put a stranglehold on the series Saturday."

Jackson scored 17 points and Peja Stojakovic returned from a one-game absence due to a knee injury to add 10 for the Pacers, who shot 52 percent (34-of-65) and held a 43-30 advantage on the glass.

Vince Carter scored 21 of his 25 points in the first half for the Nets, who must win Saturday in order to avoid a 3-1 deficit - a hole which only seven teams have climbed out of in NBA history. New Jersey has lost eight of its last nine playoff games.

"They (Pacers) definitely stepped up their level of intensity," Carter said. "We just know we have to regroup and bounce back Saturday. The most important game is always the next one. All games are important, but the most important one is always the next one."

"I expect them to throw the kitchen sink at us," Johnson said. "They are a talented ballclub and there's no way you can overlook them or sell them short."