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Indiana Pacers vs New Jersey Nets

EASTERN CONFERENCE:

(3) NEW JERSEY NETS

Late in the season, the Nets knocked off victory after victory after victory, until they had won 14 in a row, making them tops in the NBA in consecutive wins this year!

Alone Vince Carter, Jason Kidd, or Richard Jefferson would be tough to contain; together, they’re nearly impossible to shut down. Sure the Nets can score; they did that all year. But late in the season they proved that they could also play “D.”

Vince Carter is a stellar, big play guy. At guard, he’s sure handed and able to see and create scoring opportunity after scoring opportunity. He led the team in scoring, averaging 24.2 PPG.

Point guard Jason Kidd led the Nets in rebounds (7.3 PG) and assists (8.4 PG). In the NBA, he was first in triple-doubles with eight and eighth in steals per game (1.88). Kidd can grind it out on the floor and make things happen. Along with Carter, he’s always ready to step up.

Richard Jefferson is a durable swingman, who hit 81% from the foul line, while ranking 12th in the NBA in minutes per game (39.2). Jefferson is a reliable workhorse who offers consistent, athletic play.

The one negative for the team is the lack of experience of its bench, which was rarely used this season. It’s unusual in the long, unforgiving NBA playoffs to make it to the finals without a tested and dependable group of reserves. The Nets will have to hope that this doesn’t come back and bite them during the playoffs.

(6) INDIANA PACERS

The Pacers found themselves hampered by injuries all season and played inconsistent ball. Guard Jamaal Tinsley, who is still hurt, is unlikely to see any playoff action. Prior to his injury, he was averaging 19.9 PPG; he ended the season with an average of 9.3 PPG. That’s a big drop-off in production, and he’s greatly missed by his team.

Peja Stojakovic, at forward-guard, is a dynamic player. In the NBA, he was second in free throw percentage, hitting at a rate of .915. He also led the team in 3-point percentage (.404) and rebounds (5.8).

Center-forward Jermaine O’Neal led the team in points per game with 20.1. In the league, O’Neal was eighth in blocks per game averaging 2.29. He plays tough, unrelenting defense and is accomplished in the transition game.

Guard Stephen Jackson offers some additional scoring, but for the Pacers their game lives and dies by the play of Stojakovic and O’Neal.

And that is the problem for Indiana—a general lack of depth. Unless Stojakovic and O’Neal can step it up a few notches and carry the team, the Pacers will find it extremely difficult getting past the second or perhaps even the first round this year.

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New Jersey wins series 4-3

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