EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- The Nets got great performances
from all three stars, including a spectacular last-minute,
left-handed dunk by Vince Carter with the game on the line.
All that, and New Jersey still barely managed to beat Indiana on
Tuesday night, pushing the Pacers to the brink of playoff
Carter had 34 points, 15 rebounds and a game-clinching,
high-flying slam with 28 seconds to play as the Nets beat the
Pacers 92-86 to take a 3-2 lead in their best-of-seven first-round
While he hit 13 of 24 shots, Carter's dunk over Pacers rookie
Danny Granger is what had everyone talking after the Nets' second
straight win in the series.
"It's not so much the type of shot he hit, but the importance
of the shot," said Nets forward Richard Jefferson, who scored 24
points, including a clutch 3-pointer with 1:22 to go to give New
Jersey an 87-81 lead.
"Vince has hit some of the craziest shots in the history of
this league," Jefferson added. "But the importance of that shot
is what I am most proud of for him."
Carter insisted all he was trying to do was put the ball in the
basket with New Jersey clinging to an 89-86 lead.
"A big basket was needed," Carter said. "If we don't make it,
it would give them the opportunity to tie or cut it to one. I just
wanted to be patient and take what I could get."
Carter got a step on Granger and brought down the house at the
Continental Airlines Arena and the Pacers all in one high-flying
"That was one of the many plays he made," Granger said. "He
hit a jumper at the top of the key (with 51 seconds to go) and
Richard hit the big 3. But he made a great play. It happens."
Jason Kidd set a Nets' postseason record with 15 assists.
Game 6 will be played in Indianapolis on Thursday. If a deciding
Game 7 is necessary, it will be played here on Saturday.
"We did a pretty good job of battling back," Johnson said.
"This team has been resilient all year long and we will continue
to fight and play hard no matter who we have. We gave great effort
but morale victories don't help you as far as putting points on the
board. We came out on the short end and now our backs are against
While the Pacers showed a tremendous amount of grit and
determination in hanging around in Game 5, they need to get healthy
in a hurry if they want to survive.
Forward Peja Stojakovic missed his second straight game and
third in the series with a knee injury. That was expected. What
wasn't was the absence of starting center Jeff Foster, who sat out
with a back problem.
That left O'Neal, Stephen Jackson (13 points) and Johnson to
carry the load, and they couldn't do it, combining to shot
19-for-49 from the field.
Despite the shooting woes, Indiana still managed to tie the game
at 72 early in the fourth quarter.
The game-tying basket in a game in which the Pacers never led
came on a fast-break layup by Fred Jones with 10:41 to play.
The Nets called timeout and turned to Carter. The All-Star guard
hit a jumper in the lane to put them ahead by two and Lamond Murray
followed about two minutes later with a 3-pointer -- his only basket
of the game -- to push the lead to 77-72.
A three-point play by Jefferson pushed the lead to 84-77, but
the Pacers still wouldn't go away. Three times in the final 1:41
the Pacers closed their deficit to three points, the last time at
89-86 with 50 seconds to go on two free throws by Jones.
With the game on the line on the Nets' next possession, Carter
drove the left side of the lane, elevated and slammed the Pacers.
Indiana never scored again.
The Nets had chances to blow open the game, taking leads of 11
points in the second quarter and 10 in the third, but the Pacers
never gave up.
Kidd shared the Nets' old playoff assist record with
Micheal Ray Richardson. ... The last time the Nets and Pacers met
in a Game 5, Indiana great Reggie Miller banked in a 3-pointer at
the buzzer to force overtime in what was then a first-round series
decider. New Jersey won in overtime en route to reaching the NBA
Finals in 2002. ... Celebrities in attendance included actor Ethan
Hawke, singer Jay-Z and Beyonce and Portland guard Sebastian