EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Just like the team they defeated, the New Jersey Nets are headed to new territory -- their first Eastern Conference finals appearance in 26 NBA seasons.
Jason Kidd scored 23 points and made several plays in the fourth quarter that swung the momentum New Jersey's way as the Nets defeated the Hornets 103-95 Wednesday night, ending the Hornets' 14-year existence in Charlotte.
New Jersey held Charlotte to one field goal in the final 7:37. In winning this best-of-seven series 4-1, the Nets gained each of their victories with tenacious fourth-quarter defense. This foul-marred game was no different.
The game changed in the Nets' favor after Baron Davis fouled out with 5:36 to play. Charlotte's next field goal was a 3-pointer by David Wesley with 20 seconds to play.
The Nets, who stunned the NBA by posting the best record in the conference (56-26) just a year after going 26-56, will play the Boston Celtics in the conference final starting here Sunday.
It will be a series matching a team whose only championships came in the old ABA against the NBA's most successful franchise with 16 titles.
But this is a Nets team that has come full cycle, from Dr. J to J-Kidd.
"I don't think we knew we were going to be this good at this point," Kidd said.
Kerry Kittles finished with 18 points and Keith Van Horn, another long-suffering Net, added 16.