Roy Hibbert scores 24 as Pacers sweep Nets

Indiana Pacers' Brandon Rush attempts to shoot as he is pressured by New Jersey Nets' Johan Petro, right, of France, and Sasha Vujacic, left, of Slovenia, during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game Monday, March 21, 2011 in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
Indiana Pacers' Brandon Rush attempts to shoot as he is pressured by New Jersey Nets' Johan Petro, right, of France, and Sasha Vujacic, left, of Slovenia, during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game Monday, March 21, 2011 in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun) (Bill Kostroun - AP)
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By TOM CANAVAN
The Associated Press
Monday, March 21, 2011; 10:09 PM

NEWARK, N.J. -- Roy Hibbert scored 24 points and Danny Granger had 17 of his 20 in the second half as the Indiana Pacers opened a two-game lead in the race for the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference with a 102-98 victory over the New Jersey Nets on Monday.

Darren Collison added 15 points - nine in the final 2:24 - and 12 assists for the Pacers (31-40). Charlotte (28-41) and Milwaukee (28-41) are tied for ninth, with the Bobcats playing host to Indiana on Wednesday.

Brook Lopez had 20 points to lead the Nets, who saw Sundiata Gaines and Sasha Vujacic miss tying 3-point attempts in the final 15 seconds.

Gaines finished with a career-high 18 points, while Vujacic and Jordan Farmar had 14 apiece for New Jersey, which lost its fourth in the row.

The Nets played without point guard Deron Williams, who missed his second straight game with a wrist injury.

The final three minutes were wild with the Pacers seemingly putting the game away when Collison converted a three-point play to open a 94-83 lead 2:24 to go.

Anthony Morrow hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to eight. After Josh McRoberts (14 points) hit a shot in the lane for Indiana, Vujacic hit a 3-pointer after New Jersey got an offensive rebound following a miss free throw by Lopez, cutting the margin to 96-90.

After Collison made two free throws with 1:20 to go, the Nets came up with four more points. Morrow hit the first of two free throws and Vujacic nailed another 3-pointer after New Jersey got the offensive rebound, making it a four-point game.

Collison missed a jumper and Gaines was fouled hard by McRoberts. He made one of two free throws to cut the lead to 98-95 with 40.5 seconds to go.

After Hibbert, who was 10 of 14 from the field missed a jump hook, the Nets had their chances to tie it, but Gaines missed a long 3-pointer and Vujacic had his 3-pointer come up short.

Collison iced the game with four free throws.

The Pacers, who were blown out at Memphis on Saturday night, looked listless for most of the first half. They were down by 12 with 3:03 left in the first half when they suddenly woke up.

Hibbert scored five points and Granger, who missed his first seven shots from the field, nailed a 3-pointer in a 12-4 run that closed the gap to 44-40 at the half.

The Pacers scored the first nine points of the second half with Hibbert, who was limited to two points in a foul-plagued game Saturday, scoring twice inside and Tyler Hansbrough converting a three point play.

Notes: The Pacers' 15 first-quarter points were the fewest New Jersey allowed in the opening quarter this season. Oklahoma City had 16 on Dec. 1. ... Nets rookie F Damion James missed the game with a sore right foot. ... Indiana did not commit a foul in the third quarter. ... The most consecutive double-doubles in a season by a Nets player is 13, by Buck Williams, during the 1982-83 season.


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