Johnson’s free throws lift Pacers past Nets


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Former Nets guard Anthony Johnson made two free throws with 0.9 seconds left, and the Indiana Pacers beat New Jersey 90-88 Sunday to take Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round series.

Jermaine O’Neal scored 11 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter for the sixth-seeded Pacers, who became the first road team to win a game in this postseason. Game 2 is Tuesday night at Continental Airlines Arena.

Stephen Jackson scored 18 points and reserve Fred Jones added 15 for the Pacers, who forced Vince Carter and Jason Kidd, two of New Jersey’s “Big Three” into horrible shooting nights. Johnson, who was Kidd’s backup in New Jersey when the Nets made consecutive NBA Finals appearances in 2002-03, finished with 12 points and six assists.

Carter had 31 points and 13 rebounds, but shot 12-of-33 from the field. Kidd was only 2-of-11 for five points for the Nets, the Atlantic Division champions.

Suns 107, Lakers 102

PHOENIX – Even with a poor shooting afternoon from Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers still nearly stole their playoff opener against the Phoenix Suns.

Tim Thomas had 22 points and a career playoff-high 15 rebounds, and the Suns escaped with a 107-102 victory.

Thomas, sent home by the Chicago Bulls for what they thought was a bad attitude for most of this season, then released and signed by Phoenix on March 3, made his first eight shots and finished 8-for-10, 4-for-5 from 3-point range.

Steve Nash had 20 points, including a crucial 3-pointer with 1:07 to play, and 10 assists. The Suns made 32 of 35 free throws, 8-for-8 by Nash. Shawn Marion added 19 points, Boris Diaw 15 and Leandro Barbosa 15, nine in the fourth quarter.

Bryant, the NBA scoring champion with 35.4 points per game, scored 22 points – barely half the 42.5 he averaged against Phoenix in the regular season – on 7-for-21 shooting, 1-of-6 3s. But Lamar Odom had 21 points and 14 rebounds and Luke Walton matched his career best in any NBA game with 19 points.

Pistons 92, Bucks 74

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – Rasheed Wallace scored 17 of his 22 points in the first half and Richard Hamilton scored 21 to lead Detroit to a 92-74 win over the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 1 of their first-round series.

The top-seeded Pistons were so balanced offensively that they started the final quarter with four scorers in double figures, and were so tough at the other end that Milwaukee didn’t have one. Bucks star Michael Redd was held to 11 points on 4-of-15 shooting after averaging 25.4 during the regular season.

Mavs 103, Grizzlies 93

DALLAS – Having opened last year’s playoffs with two home losses, the Mavericks shredded the NBA’s stingiest defense with 60 first-half points and got key baskets when they needed them the rest of the way in a 103-93 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies in the opener of their first-round series Sunday night.

Dirk Nowitzki led Dallas with 31 points – 19 coming in the early surge – yet what really won this for Dallas was its energy and its depth.

Backup center Erick Dampier exemplified both with 12 points, 12 rebounds and plays like a crowd-thrilling dunk off a loose ball just before halftime and then an offensive rebound that turned into a three-point play early in the fourth quarter.

Memphis hung on as long it could considering its star player, Pau Gasol, missed all five shots he took in the first half. He swished a jumper at the start of the third quarter and scored 13 in the period, helping the Grizzlies get within 75-74.

But Marquis Daniels, another Dallas reserve, answered immediately with a powerful baseline dunk, sparking a rally that culminated in him taking a steal all the way for a finger-roll layup that made it 96-82. On Memphis’ next possession, Jake Tsakilidis committed a foul and was hit with a technical for complaining.

The frustration was understandable – the Grizzlies are now 0-9 in their postseason history, extending what already was the wrong kind of league record. After being swept by San Antonio and Phoenix the last two years, they were hoping that coming into the playoffs on an 8-1 roll would change their luck.

Memphis’ next chance comes in Game 2 on Wednesday night.

AP-ES-04-24-06 0024EDT