Carter rebounded from a dismal shooting performance to score 33 points Tuesday night and lead the New Jersey Nets to a 90-75 victory over the foul-plagued and undermanned Pacers, evening their first-round series at a game apiece.
“Maybe it came off as a chip, it was just focus,” Carter said when asked if had a chip on his shoulder for Game 2. “I wanted to get my first win here. They brought me here not to just win 49 games but to win playoff games. That was my goal. It was important for me to come out and just be Vince.”
Carter had plenty of help.
Game 3 is at Indiana on Thursday night.
Jason Kidd added six points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds in a game the Pacers probably felt was decided a little too much by an officiating crew that included Violet Palmer, the first female to referee a postseason game.
The crew called two fouls apiece on Indiana’s Jermaine O’Neal and Stephen Jackson in the first quarter, and the Pacers were never able to find their offense on a night forward Peja Stojakovic was also sidelined with a sore right knee.
“It’s hard when both of us are in foul trouble,” Jackson said. “If one of us is in foul trouble, the other can play. But when both of us are out, it’s hard. Our teammates play off us a lot, and it didn’t make it no better that Peja wasn’t playing. It’s hard to win a game like that.”
The Pacers’ trio averaged a combined 56 points during the regular season. Jackson had 10 points before fouling out in the fourth quarter. O’Neal finished with 12 points on 3-for-12 shooting and five fouls.
Both O’Neal and Jackson chose their words carefully when asked about the officiating.
“I don’t quite understand it,” O’Neal said. “This is my 10th year. These are the same moves I made the previous four or five years that made me an All-Star. On the flops, they’re holding onto me. They’re not calling them on the other end.”
Pacers coach Rick Carlisle refused to criticize the officials.
“They’re working hard to try to get it right,” Carlisle said.
Carter, who was a woeful 12-of-33 in Game 1 and took a lot of criticism in the media the following day for both the number of shots and his shot selection, was right on target in Game 2. He made his first five shots from the field and his first miss came late in the quarter with a toss to beat the shot clock.
Carter finished 12-for-20 from the field and 8-for-9 from the free throw line on a night New Jersey shot 46.5 percent and held Indiana to 35 percent.
“This is how we play,” Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. “When we play at a high level it starts on the defensive end. As a result you are able to get some easy baskets.”
New Jersey, which led 26-22 at the end of the first quarter, expanded the lead to 44-36 after an ugly second period. Indiana missed 21 of its last 25 shots in the half.
O’Neal picked up his third foul on a questionable loose ball call and went to the bench with 8:58 to play in the quarter. Indiana scored only 10 points and had three baskets the rest of the way, but the Nets couldn’t pull away from the Pacers.
Jefferson scored six straight points to cap an 8-0 run that gave the Nets a 50-36 lead early in the third quarter, a span in which O’Neal picked up his fourth foul. A 7-0 run at the end of the quarter that Jefferson capped with a slam pushed the lead to 73-53.
Indiana managed to close the gap to 79-71 with 3:32 to play, but Carter scored five straight points to put away the game.
The officiating crew called 43 personal fouls and six technicals, with Frank picking up his second in two games. Stojakovic, a 90 percent free throw shooter, usually takes the Pacers’ shots on technicals. Johnson, Jackson and Fred Jones all missed their attempts on technicals. … Nets F Jason Collins needed stitches to close a cut on his chin in the first quarter. … LaVar Arrington, who signed with the New York Giants last week, was at the game with fellow New York linebacker Antonio Pierce. Filmmaker Spike Lee was among the celebrities. … Pacers G Jamaal Tinsley was active for Indiana after missing the series opener and the last three games of the regular season. … The win snapped a seven-game Nets losing streak in the playoffs, dating to 2004.