EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Anthony Johnson was nothing more
than Jason Kidd's backup when he played for New Jersey. On Sunday
he backed up his new reputation -- as one of the Indiana Pacers'
most dependable players.
Johnson made two free throws with 0.9 seconds left and played
tough defense on Kidd, and the Pacers beat the Nets 90-88 to take
Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round series.
"Anthony Johnson is a guy you can count on," Pacers coach Rick
Carlisle said. "There are guys on your roster you know are going
to be ready to play and take care of themselves and be
professional, knowledgeable, they like the game. He is one of those
guys who fits that description."
Jermaine O'Neal scored 11 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter
for the sixth-seeded Pacers, who became the first road team to win
a game in this postseason. Game 2 is Tuesday night at Continental
Johnson, Kidd's understudy in New Jersey when the Nets made
consecutive NBA Finals appearances in 2002-03, finished with 12
points and six assists.
"Everyone wants to label guys, label me as a backup point
guard, a guy that can't get it done," Johnson said. "Those are
the opportunities where you have to step up and make it happen."
Johnson, who has played for six teams, was supposed to be the
third-stringer on the Pacers after they signed Sarunas Jasikevicius
in the summer. But with Jamaal Tinsley injured, Johnson has emerged
as the starter, and one of the players most responsible for helping
the Pacers make a late run to grab a playoff spot.
Carter had 31 points and 13 rebounds, but shot 12-of-33 from the
field. Kidd was only 2-of-11 for five points for the Nets, the
Atlantic Division champions.
"I had a double negative tonight," Carter said. "I couldn't
hit a jump shot or make a layup."
Carter's follow dunk tied the game at 88 with 32 seconds left,
and the Pacers worked the clock down before Austin Croshere took a
jumper from the corner that was short. The ball came back to him
and he got it out to Johnson, who drove into the lane and was
fouled while taking a shot that went in and out.
The foul was called on Krstic, but Johnson thought it was on
Kidd. Johnson said it was a foul -- "No ifs, ands or buts" -- but
the Nets weren't so sure.
"Unfortunately we couldn't come up the rebound, and you like for
players to decide the game, but you have to give Anthony credit for
making the two free throws," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "I
haven't seen a replay yet, but the foul on Krstic seemed like a
really hard call."
After he sank both free throws, Jefferson's jumper from the
corner was short.
Saddled by foul trouble, O'Neal was just 1-of-5 for four points
after three quarters. But the Pacers kept going to him down the
stretch, and he put them in position to take Game 1.
Indiana was considered a preseason favorite to win the East, but
its season got off course after Ron Artest was benched following
his trade request in December. Even after they finally dealt Artest
in January, the Pacers continued to struggle while dealing with key
injuries to O'Neal and Tinsley.
The Pacers went into the final weeks with no guarantee of a playoff
spot before winning five of its final six to earn the No. 6 seed, a
roll they continued with Sunday's victory.
The Nets started quickly, getting dunks on their first two
possessions. But the Pacers righted themselves behind Jackson, who
scored 13 points in the first quarter and dominated his matchup
with Carter as Indiana took a 30-24 lead.
Carter shot 2-of-10 in the period, missing eight of his final
nine shots after an alley-oop dunk a minute into the game. Jackson
"A lot of games we lost this season was because we didn't start
playing until the second or third quarter," Jackson said. "I
think we came out and played in the first and it kind of gives
Peja Stojakovic's first two shots were airballs. ...
Carlisle said Tinsley, sidelined with a sprained right Achilles tendon,
was considered day-to-day and the Pacers didn't know his status for
Game 2. ... Carter's 33 shots were four short of the Nets' playoff
record, which he set last year in a double-overtime loss to Miami
in the first round. ... The teams also met in the first round in
2002, with New Jersey winning the series 3-2 with a double-overtime
victory in the deciding game. ... Nets reserve Antoine Wright was
out with a strained left quad.