Reuters: New Jersey Nets' Jason Kidd throws the basketball in the air after winning game six against Toronto Raptors in their NBA Eastern Conference basketball play-off series in East Rutherford on Friday night. The Nets won the series 4-2.
EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Reuters):
RICHARD JEFFERSON scored the go-ahead points with 8.3 seconds left and then made a leaping steal to help the New Jersey Nets beat the Toronto Raptors 98-97 and clinch their play-off series on Friday night.
The dramatic victory lifted the Nets to a 4-2 win over Toronto and put New Jersey into the Eastern Conference semi-finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers, who swept the Washington Wizards in four.
The best-of-seven series starts today in Cleveland.
"We look forward to the challenge," Nets coach Lawrence Frank told reporters about facing the second-seeded Cavaliers, led by LeBron James.
Jefferson put the Nets ahead with a spinning drive to the hoop and iced the victory under his own basket as Jose Calderon tried to lob the ball down low to Raptors forward Chris Bosh. Jefferson stretched out to snare the pass and shovelled it off to guard Jason Kidd as the buzzer sounded.
"We had a chance to win the basketball game," Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said. "They made just one more play than we did."
The Raptors, who had been blown out in their previous two games in New Jersey, came out firing in game six determined to send the series back to Toronto.
Despite a cold touch by Bosh, Toronto shot 54.3 per cent from the floor in the first half and carried a 46-43 lead into intermission.
The Nets outscored the Raptors by 10 points in the third quarter for a 75-68 lead, and stretched it to a 10-point edge in the fourth with Kidd directing the attack and Vince Carter taking the ball to the hoop.
Bosh caught fire late in the fourth quarter to lead the Raptors back and gave Toronto a 97-96 lead with a short bank shot with 47.9 seconds left.
After missed chances by both sides, the Nets used Carter as a decoy on one side of the court and Kidd passed to Jefferson, who twisted and spun his way to a layup for the lead.
"He spun and made a tough shot in traffic," Raptors coach Mitchell said, adding that victory was still within reachif Calderon had got the ball to Bosh.
"He was open, we just didn't get enough air under the pass. Richard (Jefferson) made a good athletic play on the ball. If we got it there, Chris could have had a dunk."
Jefferson led all scorers with 24 points and Vince Carter added 21 for New Jersey.
Kidd dished out 15 assists and had 18 points. He averaged 14 points, 13.2 assists and 10 rebounds in the series.
Bosh led Toronto with 23 points. Guard T.J. Ford, hampered by injury earlier in the series, scored 19 points on 7-for-10 shooting and Italian Andrea Bargnani added 17 points and seven rebounds.
Kidd said he was proud of his team's finish.
"We didn't panic," he said. "We made plays when we had to."