Jefferson's Score and Steal Seal Nets WinRichard Jefferson scored a layup with eight seconds left and made a game-saving steal as the New Jersey Nets beat the Toronto Raptors 98-97 to win their series four games to two. Jefferson finished with a game-high 24 points. Vince Carter added 21 points, while Jason Kidd had 18 points, 15 assists and eight rebounds; Kidd averaged a triple double for an entire series for the second time in his career, joining Wilt Chamberlain and Magic Johnson as the only players to ever average a triple double in more than one playoff series. This was Kidd's 11th postseason triple double, moving into second place on the career playoff triple double list (Magic Johnson had 30). Chris Bosh overcame a slow shooting start to score 23 points; he also had seven rebounds and a career-high nine assists. He had 13 points in the fourth quarter and his basket with :47 left that put the Raptors up one would have been the game-winner if not for Jefferson's heroics.
Toronto's top two point guards, T.J. Ford and Jose Calderon, were questionable before the game due to injuries but they both turned in very solid performances. Ford scored 19 points in 15 minutes, while Calderon had 14 points, six assists and four steals in 33 minutes. Ford scored 13 points on 6-7 shooting in the first half, helping the Raptors take a 46-43 halftime lead. Carter and Jefferson both struggled mightily from the field in the first half, shooting 3-10 and 2-7 respectively.
The Nets hit the Raptors with a 7-0 run early in the third quarter; Kidd started the run with a three pointer and capped it off by feeding Jefferson for a dunk. Kidd had seven points and seven assists in the third quarter and the Nets took a 75-68 lead going into the fourth quarter. Bostjan Nachbar's three pointer gave the Nets a 78-68 advantage after the first possession of the final period, but the Raptors were not rattled, cutting the lead to 80-79 on Calderon's jumper at the 8:41 mark. Carter's dunk with 6:55 remaining put the Nets up 87-83 but they did not make another field goal until Jefferson's last second shot. The Nets made Nine made free throws to stay in contact, setting up the dramatic finish. After Bosh's bank shot gave the Raptors a 97-96 lead, Carter and Bosh traded misses and the Nets called timeout with 12 seconds left. Usually, New Jersey puts the ball in Carter's hands in last shot situations but this time the Nets ran a misdirection play, feeding Kidd at the top and setting a screen for Jefferson, who took Kidd's pass and made a strong drive, spinning to the hoop and finishing over Bosh with his left hand. The Raptors called timeout and then inbounded the ball at halfcourt with eight seconds left. Calderon dribbled for a few seconds and then attempted a low pass to Bosh, which Jefferson intercepted. Bosh had sealed his defender and was open, but the passing angle was very difficult.
The Raptors showed that they are a team with a very promising future--but the future is now for the Nets and their veteran nucleus of Kidd, Carter and Jefferson. The defending champion Miami Heat have already been eliminated and there is no dominant team in the East so this is a golden opportunity for the Nets to make a run at the NBA Finals. Next up for New Jersey is a showdown with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. That series will start on Sunday.
posted by David Friedman @ 7:28 AM