EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- The offseason did little to cool the developing rivalry between the New Jersey Nets and Indiana Pacers.
Richard Jefferson scored 19 points and Dikembe Mutombo added 14 as the Nets posted a 102-91 victory over the Indiana Pacers in a physical renewal of a thrilling first-round playoff series from last season.
New Jersey won its first playoff series since 1984 with a classic 120-109 double-overtime victory in Game Five of the opening round a year ago. Friday's rematch featured three ejections, four flagrant fouls and 12 technicals, including nine for unsportsmanlike behavior.
"A lot of things went on this game that I haven't seen in a long time," Nets coach Byron Scott said. "Our guys tried to stay in control as much as possible and tried to focus in on the game."
"Rivalry is a good thing," Pacers coach Isiah Thomas said. "It's good to have a rival and be noticed as the new kid on the block trying to carve out some turf. Our goal and mission is to take what they have."
The Nets held a 74-61 lead near the end of the third quarter when Indiana's Jeff Foster and Erick Strickland committed flagrant fouls on back-to-back possessions by New Jersey. Strickland, who was also ejected with a pair of technicals, and Nets guard Lucious Harris exchanged some harsh words and had to be separated.
"We came in with our game plan, we didn't expect it to be like that," Harris said. "They made it that way. They started with the flagrant fouls, talking trash, like they've been doing all week in the papers. We played our game."
In the fourth period, Indiana's Jamaal Tinsley threw Jason Kidd to the floor. Kidd tried to post up on the next possession. Tinsley held his ground before being called for a foul, and Kidd swung a vicious elbow after the whistle. He was promptly tossed for what the referees ruled an "open hand." Tinsley also picked up a technical.
"It was nothing between me and Tinsley, we were just out there trying to play hard," said Kidd, who was ejected for the first time in his career. "I don't think I did (use an open hand). The referees had a tough time tonight. If that's what he saw, they have to review it on tape and I think they will see something differently than an open hand."
"I just cleared him out with my arm," Tinsley said. "He put his arm up and I put my arm up. He tried to be aggressive with me so I got aggressive with him."
The Nets were forced to use backup point guard Anthony Johnson, who missed two free throws before he drew Tinsley's sixth foul. But Johnson poked his finger in Tinsley's face and was immediately ejected for taunting. Nets forward Kenyon Martin continued to run his mouth while motioning his arms in an effort to incite the crowd.
"I haven't seen a player come off the bench to shoot two free throws and then get kicked out," Scott said. "I haven't seen that in a long time."
Before the antics, the Nets used a 16-4 run in the second quarter to take the lead for good at 44-34 with 3:14 remaining on a hook shot by Mutombo. Martin had a pair of dunks and five points in the spurt.
New Jersey continued to unleash its furious fast-break attack in the third period as Jefferson had a pair of highlight-film dunks, including a one-handed windmill jam that made it 63-50 with 5:38 remaining.
The first quarter featured a double technical between Jefferson and Ron Artest, and Indiana's Jermaine O'Neal was whistled for one as well. Strickland picked up his second as part of a double technical with Harris.
"It started in the first quarter when they hit RJ," Martin said. "I tried to let the refs know that things were going to get out of hand and I was just trying to get control before it escalated."
After the game, the war of words continued between the teams.
"There's a possibility we are a better team than the Nets but we didn't show it today," Artest said. "Tonight we showed our young and immature side, which we are really not. We are a smart team."
"There's no rivalry, they can try to fight us and they lose by 15 every time they come here," Jefferson said. "If that's the kind of rivalry they want, then that's fine."
It all took away from another strong performance by New Jersey, which held a 47-38 edge on the glass and a 50-30 advantage in points in the paint. Mutombo had four blocks and Martin had 11 points and seven rebounds.
Martin and New Jersey once again did a good job against O'Neal, who exploded for 30 points in Game One last season, claimed no one on the Nets could guard him and was held in check the rest of the series. O'Neal managed just five of his 14 points after halftime and pulled down eight boards.
Ron Mercer led Indiana with 16 points and fellow reserve Jonathan Bender netted 15 with six blocks. Artest added 11 and Brad Miller led the Pacers with 10 rebounds.
The Nets continued to get strong production from their bench as Rodney Rogers had 11 points and Harris 10. The reserves helped pick up Kidd, who finished with nine points on 3-of-13 shooting, eight assists and eight rebounds.
"Reggie (Miller) wasn't playing," Kidd said. "We have two new guys on our team playing. So everybody is trying to make it into a rivalry but you have to pay your price before you make it into a rivalry."