Friday, May 03, 2002

New Jersey holds off Indiana in overtime

Nets 120, Pacers 109, 2OT

AP Sports Writer

New Jersey Nets' Kenyon Martin (6) rips a dunk over the Pacers' defense.
(AP photo)
| ZOOM |
        EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — On a night when Reggie Miller provided another playoff miracle, the New Jersey Nets got the norm from Jason Kidd — another MVP performance that saved the franchise's greatest season ever.

        Kidd scored 20 of his career playoff-best 31 points in the fourth quarter and two overtimes and the Nets eliminated Miller and the Pacers 120-109 Thursday night in a riveting Game 5 of their first-round series.

        “We've been very resilient all season long,” Nets coach Byron Scott said. “We keep fighting back and pull things out when things seem lost. I think it says a lot about the character of our team that we never say die. These guys didn't want to go home.”

        Miller did his best to rip the heart out of the Nets, banking in a 35-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer in regulation to tie the game at 96.

        “That was an unbelievable shot,” Pacers coach Isiah Thomas said. “He's one of the greatest clutch players I've ever seen, if not the greatest. He's right up there with (Michael) Jordan. He pushes a button and just keeps going.”

        Miller was at his best under pressure, also tying the game again on a two-handed dunk with 3.1 seconds left in the first overtime. But he went 0-for-4 in the second overtime — all on 3-point shots — and finished with 31 points, 15 in the fourth quarter and the first overtime.

        “In this area, people think I'm the Boogieman of the playground, some myth who makes big plays,” Miller said. “But I just love playing. I should have been more selfish down the stretch and took more shots. I put others in the position to make plays and that's why we lost.”

        It marked only the second time since the Nets joined the NBA in 1976-77 that they have made it out of the first round. The only other time was in 1984 against Philadelphia.

        “To do that for this franchise means a lot to me and my teammates, said Kenyon Martin, who added 29 points. Keith Van Horn had 27 before fouling out as New Jersey advanced to a best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal against the Charlotte Hornets.

        Ron Mercer had 20 in only the third series-deciding playoff game in NBA history to go to double-overtime.

        “This was do or die, time to give everything you have,” said Kidd, who played 33 of the 34 minutes after halftime. “I was ready to empty the tank, chasing after one of the best two-guards in NBA history. Reggie doesn't quit and you saw that tonight.”

        There was some question about Miller's miraculous 3-pointer. One replay showed that it barely beat the clock, while another showed the ball in his hands with the red light clearly lit under the basket.

        “I thought it was a little late also,” Scott said. “Referees are human and make mistakes. Fortunately, that didn't cost us.”

        Kidd nearly won the game for New Jersey at the end of the first overtime when his last second jumper went in and out.

        He took over the game in the second overtime, setting up a three-point play by Kerry Kittles and adding a jumper with 3:07 left to give the Nets a lead they never lost. New Jersey outscored Indiana 13-2 in the second overtime.

        “He did it time and time again in this series,” Pacers forward Jermaine O'Neal said of Kidd. “He was playing the Superman role. There were two Supermen out there tonight. Reggie did a heck of a job trying to keep this team. We didn't help him enough.”

        Mercer scored for Indiana to make it 112-109 with 2:45 left, but the Pacers went scoreless the rest of the way.

        The Nets seemingly had the series locked up after Kevin Ollie missed a drive down the lane with five seconds to play and New Jersey ahead 96-93.

        Richard Jefferson got the rebound and needed to make just one of two free throws to ice the game.

        Jefferson missed both and the Pacers rushed the ball upcourt, Ollie getting the ball to Miller some 10 feet behind the 3-point arc. Moving to his right, Miller turned and fired. The shot hit hard off the backboard and banked right in.

        The three officials conferred and Bob Delaney quickly ruled that the basket counted.

        After Martin hit one of two free throws with 8.2 seconds left in the first overtime, Miller drove around Kerry Kittles and dunked forcefully over Aaron Williams to tie the game.

        “This is one for the ages. I think people are going to talk about this one for a long, long time,” Thomas said. “There were a lot of great players, a lot of great plays. There was drama, there were ups and downs. It's what NBA basketball is all about. It really was a fantastic game.”

        New Jersey used a 10-0 run early in the fourth quarter to take a 90-81 lead. Kidd hit a 20-foot jumper with 1:05 to play to make it 94-91.

        After a 20-second timeout with 26.4 seconds to go, Miller came off a screen and got Van Horn up in the air beyond the 3-point line. Van Horn not only landed on Miller for a three-shot penalty, he also fouled out.

        Miller, who led the league with a 91 percent free throw average, made the first, missed the second and made the third. It looked gloomy for the Miller and the Pacers at that point, but there was plenty more to come.

        Notes: Pacers point guard Jamaal Tinsley did not play in the second half or the two overtimes. He started and played just six minutes. Ollie played 34 minutes. ... The final two games at the Continental Airlines Arena were sellouts.


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