Nets look for another big performance at home vs. Raptors

May 4, 2007 - 5:56 PM By PA SportsTicker

So far, Continental Airlines Arena has been a house of pleasure for the New Jersey Nets. They will try to use that success to catapult into the Eastern Conference semifinals on Friday.

Although it failed to close out the series in a 98-96 loss to the Toronto Raptors in Game Five, New Jersey had two days off to regroup as it seeks to advance past the first round for the second straight year.

The odds of that happening appear pretty good after the way the Nets played in their previous two home games in the series.

New Jersey never trailed and led by as many as 21 points in a 102-89 victory in Game Three last Friday. Jason Kidd posted a franchise-record 19 assists en route to a triple-double and Vince Carter scored 37 points.

Although Toronto had a day off to deal with that loss, it could do even less, trailing by as many as 33 points in absorbing a 102-81 setback in Game Four.

Despite the stellar play here, Nets coach Lawrence Frank knows that avoiding a big hole that his team experienced in Game Five is a key.

"Good starts are important but if you don't get off to a good start, there is no reason to panic," he said. "The biggest thing we did (on Tuesday night) is we buried such a deep hole getting down 20. That makes your margin for error a whole lot less. It's a 48-minute game.

The pair of rough setbacks continued a tough stretch for the Raptors, who have dropped their last eight road playoff games, dating to May 6, 2001.

Game Six will not be any easier for Toronto, which is dealing with injuries to point guards T.J. Ford and backup Jose Calderon.

Ford, who is bothered by neck and shoulder pain after colliding with Carter on Tuesday, played just six minutes in Game Five. Calderon picked up the slack, scoring a career-high 25 points before spraining his ankle in the closing moments.

If neither player is available, the Raptors would have to go with either Darrick Martin or Juan Dixon, who have combined to score just 17 points in the series.

"You prepare for all those guys," Frank said. "We know they are all capable. Ford and Calderon have had great series. Juan Dixon is a very good player; he has had some great games in the past. Darrick Martin is a very good player who has proven himself in this league."

"Any team can be dangerous in the playoffs, regardless of if they are healthy or not," said Carter, who is averaging 25.8 points in the series.

With another home win, New Jersey would advance to face the Cleveland Cavaliers, who have spent the last three days resting after sweeping its opening-round series with the Washington Wizards.

On Thursday, the Golden State Warriors closed their improbable upset of the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks with a 111-86 victory.

Stephen Jackson scored 33 points, including a career-high seven 3-pointers, and a hobbling Baron Davis collected 20 points, 10 rebounds and six assists as the Warriors became the first eighth-seeded team to topple a No. 1 in a best-of-seven series. Denver topped Seattle in 1994 and New York eliminated Miami in 1999 in the old best-of-five format.

After starting the season with four straight losses, Dallas went on to win a franchise-record 67 games en route to the league's best record - tied for sixth-best in NBA history - and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.

Along with Miami getting swept by Chicago earlier this week, Dallas's loss marked the first time since 1957 that both NBA finalists from the previous season did not make it past the opening round.

In the only other ongoing first-round series, Carlos Boozer scored 22 points and Mehmet Okur added 14 of his 19 in the second half for the Jazz, who captured a 94-82 victory over the Houston Rockets to force a Game Seven on Saturday.

Each team has won three games on its home court.






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