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Archive for Wednesday, April 30, 2003

New Jersey regains free-throw stroke - Nets 89, Bucks 82

April 30, 2003

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— The New Jersey Nets beat the Milwaukee Bucks at the perimeter game, then sealed their Game 5 victory by hitting foul shots for a change.

Richard Jefferson had 17 points and a career-best 16 rebounds and the Nets atoned for a foul-line disaster in the previous game by hitting 11 of 12 free throws in the final 2:35 to beat the Bucks, 89-82, and take a 3-2 lead in the series.

"That's the game, redemption and having a second chance," Jason Kidd said after the Nets came through, three days after missing nine of 13 free throws late in regulation of an overtime loss. "The free throws presented themselves and the same guys went up there and knocked them down."

Kerry Kittles hit three three-pointers in the fourth quarter for the defending Eastern Conference champions, who can clinch the best-of-seven series by winning Thursday in Milwaukee -- or Saturday in New Jersey.

"It's about surviving. They are not all going to be a Picasso-painting pretty," said Kidd, who had 19 points, six rebounds and five assists in a game that featured eight technical fouls, 62 personal fouls, 70 free throws and lots of lousy shooting.

"That was a T.J. painting, a finger painting," Kidd said, equating the game to a work of his 4-year-old son. "You just say it looks good. The thing is at this time of the year all you want to do is win, and that's what we did."

Toni Kukoc had 18 points and Sam Cassell and Gary Payton added 16 apiece for Milwaukee, which had only one field goal in the final 6:21.

"We've been in this situation before," Cassell said. "We're going back home. It's going to be a heck of a game. They have the momentum. They have the advantage. They just need one game to close it out. In all my years, the toughest to win is the one to close it, and we're not losing confidence."

The Bucks had five chances to take the lead in the final 61¼2 minutes and missed every shot, the last a pull-up 15-footer by Cassell with about 2:38 to go.

"We didn't execute in the fourth quarter," Payton said. "We had a lot of opportunities to go up and we didn't do well. We turned the ball over, missed shots, took poor shots."

The key for the Nets was using a small lineup, which not only scored but did an outstanding job playing perimeter defense.

"No matter how I'm shooting, I know I have to make shots to help this team win," said Kittles, who finished with 15 points. "If the shot is not falling early, no matter how many I miss, I know I'm going to get other opportunities to help us out, so I have to stick with it, especially when the other team is forcing us to play half court."

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