Anthony Johnson Scores 40, but the Nets Eliminate the PacersThe New Jersey Nets survived Anthony Johnson's playoff career high 40 points to beat the Indiana Pacers 96-90 and won their first round series four games to two. New Jersey countered with a balanced attack spearheaded by Richard Jefferson (30 points, six rebounds, four assists), Vince Carter (24 points, seven assists and five rebounds) and Jason Kidd (eight points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists). Johnson received very little help. The Pacers' bench players produced no points and former All-Star Jermaine O'Neal scored 21 points but only had six rebounds and no blocked shots. The only other Pacer to reach double figures in points was Danny Granger (13). O'Neal had no assists in the game but a very special one beforehand: he donated 500 tickets for game six to military personnnel stationed at Camp Atterbury and United States Marine Corps Reserves at Fort Benjamin Harrison.
The Nets will face Miami, who defeated Chicago 113-96 to win that series four games to two, in the second round. After the game, I asked several Pacers and Nets what they thought of the Nets' chances in that matchup. Here are their replies:
Pacers Coach Rick Carlisle: "They're a very well built team because they can play fast, slow or medium. They're very smart and they're very skilled. Krstic gives them a young big man who can do great things both inside and outside. His outside game, quite frankly, was one of the big differences in this series. We knew that but their athleticism led to a lot of open shots for him. He just continued to bury them. You have to take your hat off to him. I think they're a threat to any team in the Eastern Conference, I really do--and very well coached, by the way."
Anthony Johnson: "Those guys have three top notch perimeter players--J (Kidd) didn't shoot the ball well in this series, but I know he'll get it together. In the second half he made two big threes, which I didn't expect because he hadn't been shooting the ball well. So they have those three guys and Krstic has definitely come into his own as far as being a go-to guy making big shots and making clutch plays. They have four legitimate guys who can give you 20-plus points. I feel that they are for real but as for (winning) the Eastern Conference, Detroit is a tough ball club. They are in our division, so we see those guys a lot. I have to give the edge to Detroit."
Jason Kidd: "I think that the big thing for us against Miami is to be able to play our game and look back at the four games that we played (in the regular season) to see what was successful for us and then also find out what was successful for them so that we can try to make them do something different. We understand that Shaquille and Dwyane Wade will be big factors but (we must) make them do something that they are not comfortable doing. For us it is just execute our game plan, penetrate and knock down open shots."
Vince Carter: "To piggyback off of that, I just think that we must stick together and continue to execute and just fight until the end. This team has gone through a lot of things--good and bad--and I think that we've figured it out. We trust each other. I think that as the series go on and the games get tougher and tougher, just trusting each other and trusting what we do hopefully is good enough."
Jermaine O'Neal: "I think that they're pretty good. I think that Miami won tonight and I think that they are going to have a lot of problems defending isolations; you can see that they struggled against Chicago defending pick and rolls. I know Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter will just isolate those guys and see what they can do and also Krstic is a very good pick and pop guy, so Shaq will have his hands full in that aspect."
I expect New Jersey to defeat Miami in a hard fought series; I will explain my reasoning in a future post.
posted by David Friedman @ 12:45 AM