Wednesday , Apr , 26 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

NBA Playoff Notebook: Carter has taken the lead in New Jersey

(Sports Network) – All-Star Vince Carter has decided if the New Jersey Nets
are going to make some noise in the postseason, he is going to be the one that
leads them to their victories.

Carter and the third-seeded Nets bounced back from a tough loss in Game 1 to
even their best-of-seven series with No. 6 Indiana. The North Carolina product
scored 33 points, grabbed five rebounds and dished out five assists to lead
New Jersey to a 90-75 win over the Pacers at Continental Airlines Arena in
Game 2 of their first-round set.

The 6-6 Carter scored 31 points in the opener against Indiana, but shot just
12-of-33 from the floor, including 1-of-8 from beyond the arc. In Game 2, he
was 12-for-20 from the field in just under 41 minutes of action. Carter is
averaging 32 points, 9.0 rebounds and 5.5 assist the first two games of the
set.

“As far as me wanting to carry this team, I just want to do whatever is needed
of me, whatever they need from me night in and night out to help this team
win,” said Carter after Game 2s victory. “I think every player on this team
has a job and knows what is expected of him. I just want to do my job and what
is expected of me to the best of my abilities night in and night out.”

With Game 2s victory over the Pacers, the Nets, who were swept by the Miami
Heat in the first round of last year’s postseason, snapped a seven-game
playoff losing streak.

“He’s (Carter) been focused,” said New Jersey starting point guard Jason Kidd.
“He wanted a playoff win. He wants to be successful in the playoffs. He wants
to carry the team and do whatever it takes to win.

“I thought it was unfair for him to be criticized for taking 33 shots because
we put so much on him to carry us down the stretch. He was focused tonight
(Game 2) just like he was focused the other day and we are going to need that
throughout this series if we are going to have any chance.”

Kidd finished with six points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists in Game 2s win. He
was 3-for-10 from the field and played 37-plus minutes. Kidd, who is shooting
just 23.8 percent from the floor versus the Pacers, is averaging just 5.5
points, 7.5 rebounds and 10.5 assists in the first two games of the series.

New Jersey forward Richard Jefferson ended with 21 points in 42 minutes of
court time in Game 2. He is averaging 20.0 points, 4.0 boards and 3.0 assists
in the first-round series.

“Vince hit some shots,” said Jefferson. “He is going to shoot whether he is
hot or not, but we have so much confidence in him. He received criticism from
the media, he received criticism from different people, but it wasn’t from
anyone in this locker room. It wasn’t from anyone in the coaching staff,
because we believed in him and believed that he had the right intent. That was
one of his games that you just forget about it and know that he is going to
come out and play well the next one.”

Nenad Krstic also had a solid Game 2 for the Nets, as he contributed 20 points
and 10 rebounds in the victory.

The Pacers were led in Game 2 by guard Anthony Johnson, who scored 17 points,
grabbed six rebounds and handed out four assists. Johnson hit the game-winning
free throws to give Indiana a 90-88 victory in Game 1 of the series.

“I give the Nets credit,” said Johnson after Game 2s loss. “They were being
very aggressive and getting calls that could go either way. At the same time,
we didn’t shoot the ball well. We shot like 33 percent, so you have to give
credit to their defense because they had to do what they had to do. You have
to give those guys credit because they evened up the series.

“Whenever you’re trying to win a playoff series, you never want to rely on
homecourt advantage and trying to win every game at home. At the same time, we
feel very good about getting a split here. It feels good having the next to
games at Conseco Fieldhouse. It’s going to be a tough series whenever you see
the main guys over and over again, but its fun to play that way.”

Carter, Jefferson and Kidd are New Jersey’s big three. But its Carter who has
become the leader on the court. His teammates are confident in his abilities
and believe that he can lead them to success in the playoffs.

IND NJN