Friday , Apr , 23 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Nets grab 3-0 lead in Battle of the Hudson

=== Nets grab 3-0 lead in Battle of the Hudson ===

New York, NY (Sports Network) – Kenyon Martin recorded 19 points and 15
rebounds and converted a key three-point play in the closing stages to lift
the New Jersey Nets past the New York Knicks, 81-78, in Game 3 of their
Eastern Conference quarterfinal series at Madison Square Garden.

Jason Kidd also had 19 points, 17 in the second half, and dished out eight
assists for the Nets, who now hold a commanding 3-0 edge in the series and can
sweep the best-of-seven set with a victory in Game 4 on Sunday in New York.

“Now our focus is on Game 4,” Martin said. “We have a chance at ending it. We
put ourselves in a good position to win the series. Now we have to come out
Sunday and take care of business.”

Richard Jefferson added 17 points to go with 10 assists and eight boards in
the win.

Stephon Marbury posted 18 points and 10 assists for the Knicks, who trailed
by as much as 14 early in the final stanza. Anfernee Hardaway and Nazr
Mohammed each contributed 18 points in the disappointing setback, while Kurt
Thomas added 15 and 12 boards for New York.

“I believe we could win,” said Marbury of his team’s prospects in Game 4.
“There’s no doubt in my mind we can win. With a team like New Jersey, you
can’t make too many mistakes down the stretch. We made them tonight.”

With New York trailing 69-55 early in the fourth quarter, Marbury looked to
breathe life into his team with six straight points, trimming the deficit to
eight almost three minutes in.

New Jersey built its margin back to 12 before the Knicks rallied with 12 of
the next 14 points to draw within 75-73 with 2:09 remaining.

The Knicks then pulled within one, 77-76, after a three by Hardaway with under
a minute left.

Martin’s three-point play came on the ensuing possession, seconds after New
York almost stole the ball just outside the three-point line. With the Knicks
defense scrambling, Jefferson found Martin near the paint for a bucket and
the foul.

After Martin made his free throw with 25 seconds left, Mohammed had a chance
for a three-point play of his own after a dunk, but his foul shot was off the
mark, leaving the score at 80-78 with 20 seconds to go.

Kidd made one of two free throws two seconds later, giving New York a chance
on its last possession.

Hardaway missed a three with seven seconds left, but the Knicks grabbed the
offensive rebound and put the ball in Marbury’s hands at the top of the key.
Marbury was quickly double-teamed and couldn’t get off a shot from beyond the
arc, and was fouled as he looked to give it up, resulting in two free throws.

Marbury claimed that he was in the act of shooting and should have been
awarded three shots from the charity stripe.

“I don’t know. I know I was shooting the ball. Once I heard the whistle, I was
trying to shoot,” he said.

Marbury was off the mark on the first free throw, and needed to miss the
second for the Knicks to have any chance of hitting a game-tying three in the
waning seconds. He did just that, but Martin was there to pull down the
crucial rebound and seal the game.

“They got a good enough lead where they could relax a little bit,” Hardaway
said. “We got back in the game, but we just couldn’t finish it off.”

The first quarter continued right where the previous two games left off, with
the Knicks turning the ball over and the Nets scoring on the fast break.

New Jersey scored the first seven points of the night, and the Knicks faced an
uphill battle for most of the first half. New York had seven turnovers in the
opening quarter, helping the Nets capitalize on the fast break with eight

Martin and Jefferson each had eight in the first period to stake the Nets to a
25-15 advantage heading into the second.

In the second, it was the Nets that couldn’t hold onto the ball, turning it
over 10 times. The Knicks used a quick 6-1 surge out of the second-quarter
gates to get within striking distance, and pulled within one on a Marbury
jumper 4 1/2 minutes in.

After five straight Nets points made it 33-27, the Knicks tallied the next
seven and claimed their first lead of the night at 34-33 on a Thomas jumper
with 4:29 to go in the half. Kidd converted two free throws in the final
minute for his only points of the first half to cap the tightly contested
action at 40 apiece.

Jefferson finished with 13 to lead all scorers at the break, one more than
Thomas’ team high.

The Nets trailed 45-44 midway through the third stanza when they exploded for
10 straight points over the next two minutes to capture a nine-point lead
after Kidd’s three made it 54-45.

Martin and Aaron Williams made consecutive dunks to open the fourth, handing
the Nets their largest cushion of the night, 69-55.

New York has never been able to overcome a 3-0 series deficit in its history,
failing three times. In the 1951 NBA Finals, the Knicks won three straight
before finally succumbing to the Rochester Royals in seven games. The other
two occasions, the Knicks were swept by the Philadelphia 76ers.