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Pacers show great depth

Posted: Wednesday, April 21, 2004

INDIANAPOLIS The Indiana Pacers proved they're more than Ron Artest and Jermaine O'Neal on Tuesday night.

A group of reserves rescued the Pacers with an 21-3 run spanning the third and fourth quarters in a 103-90 win over the Boston Celtics in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series.

With an erratic O'Neal watching from the bench and Artest watching from home because of a suspension, Austin Croshere and Jonathan Bender ignited a lifeless Pacers team late in the third quarter.

Indiana leads the series 2-0; it moves to Boston for Game 3 on Friday night.

Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 27 points, but again struggled from the field despite the absence of Artest, the NBA's defensive player of the year.

Nets 99, Knicks 81

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. The mismatch of the Knicks-Nets series stuck to form, New Jersey showing its superiority over an outmatched and banged-up opponent.

The Nets opened a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, which resumes Thursday night at New York.

The Knicks weren't as docile as in the series opener when there was no response after Tim Thomas was flagrantly fouled and injured, but they didn't put up all that much of a fight, either.

Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin led the way as the Nets took control in the second quarter. New Jersey led by as many as 22 points in defeating the Knicks for the 14th time in their last 16 meetings.

Martin led New Jersey with 22 points and 16 rebounds.

Kings 83, Mavericks 79

SACRAMENTO, Calif. From the dozens of missed shots to the bruising battles in the post, Chris Webber cringed as a beautiful game was trampled.

The Sacramento Kings had to get ugly to get another playoff victory and Webber was thrilled to discover just how tough they've become.

Webber got his first playoff triple-double and Brad Miller hit the go-ahead shot with 34 seconds left, leading the Kings to an 83-79 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night in Game 2 of their first-round series.

Webber had 19 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists, while Mike Bibby hit four 3-pointers and scored 10 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter for the Kings. They took a 2-0 lead in a playoff series for just the second time since moving to Sacramento.

But the Kings were barely tougher than Dallas on a night when no baskets came easy for the league's highest-scoring offenses. Sacramento couldn't breathe easily until Peja Stojakovic knocked the ball out of Michael Finley's hands with 11 seconds left, setting up two clinching free throws by Doug Christie.

''Every shot is agonizing,'' Webber said. ''You're watching, wishing, praying it will go in. ... We missed so many shots both teams did. We played tough, tough as you can against a team like that. It was an awkward game, but we can play that way.''

Game 3 is Saturday in Dallas, where the Kings have lost five straight games dating to last season's playoffs.

Dirk Nowitzki had 28 points and 10 rebounds for the Mavericks, who made 32.3 percent of their shots and got just one field goal in the final three minutes. Steve Nash finished up a 6-for-20 performance by missing an open 3-pointer with 19 seconds left, and Finley made the last of Dallas' 14 turnovers.

''It's a tough loss, but we've got to stay confident,'' Nowitzki said. ''Eventually those shots will fall, and we'll stay in it.''

Rookie Marquis Daniels tied it twice for Dallas with free throws in the final 90 seconds, but Miller hit an open jumper from the left wing. Nash missed his 3-pointer, but Webber missed two free throws with 19.6 seconds left.

''It was an opportunity lost for us,'' Mavericks coach Don Nelson said. ''We had them in our sights and in striking distance. Who would have ever thought it would be a defensive battle? ... It looked like there was a lid on the basket. It's just one of those nights you dread as a coach.''

The game had no resemblance to the series opener, when the teams combined for 221 points. Instead, the Kings and Mavs shot with roughly equal ineptitude, leading to a physical game that suited neither team.

''I don't know if it was a defensive battle,'' Bibby said. ''Everybody was missing shots tonight.''

Webber kept Sacramento ahead early, but the Kings fell into a 2-for-19 funk midway through the third quarter. It ended with Bibby's 3-pointer with 5:41 to play, and the teams traded baskets to the thrilling finish.

Daniels had 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Mavericks, who were joined by glum owner Mark Cuban as they filed off the court. Eduardo Najera, who went 2-for-3 and played tough defense on Webber, was the only Dallas player to make more than 50 percent of his shots.

But Najera's physical play angered Kings coach Rick Adelman. The Dallas forward twice sent Webber tumbling to the floor.

''You throw a guy in the game like Najera, and the only reason he's in there is to beat the hell out of Webber,'' Adelman said. ''I don't think there's room in the game for that.''

Webber seriously injured his knee during the playoffs against Dallas last season, returning only for the final two months of this season. His struggles with pain and inconsistency have panicked Sacramento's fans, but the old Webber was back in action in Game 2.

Moving with dexterity he hadn't shown consistently since last season, Webber finished the first half with 13 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists while scoring repeatedly in the post.

Webber shot terribly 6-for-19 but he still carried the Kings. He completed the triple-double on Stojakovic's 3-pointer just 75 seconds into the second half.

Dallas missed 10 straight shots during one first-half stretch, and Sacramento went without a field goal in the final eight minutes of the third quarter.

Notes: Dallas F Antawn Jamison left the game in the fourth quarter with tight hamstrings. After scoring 18 points in Game 1, he was scoreless in 11 minutes. ... Webber has 17 career triple-doubles in the regular season. ... Kings G Bobby Jackson has ruled himself out of the series with the abdominal injury that has plagued him since early February.



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