EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Richard Jefferson saved the Nets from another trip to Toronto - and sent them instead to the second round.

Jefferson made the go-ahead basket with 8.3 seconds left, stole a pass on the next possession, and New Jersey beat the Raptors, 98-97, last night to win the first-round series by four games to two.

After underachieving for most of the season, the Nets put it together down the stretch and now head to Cleveland for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals tomorrow.

Jason Kidd finished with 18 points, 15 assists and eight rebounds for the Nets, averaging a triple-double for the series. Jefferson scored 24 points and Vince Carter added 21 despite shooting 6 of 19 from the field.

Chris Bosh had 23 points, nine assists and seven rebounds for the Atlantic Division champion Raptors. But Jose Calderon's pass to him was intercepted by Jefferson, sending the Raptors to their ninth straight road postseason loss.

Stern blasts bias study. NBA commissioner David Stern criticized a study regarding racial bias among league officials and the New York Times for printing it, saying racism "doesn't exist in the NBA."

Speaking before last night's game, Stern said of the report: "My major concern about it is that it's wrong."

"This is a bum rap, that's all," Stern said. "This is a bum rap, and if it is going to be laid on us it should be laid on us by basis of some people who are purported to be scholars in a publication that purports to hold us up to a higher standard - a little bit more should have been done."

Justin Wolfers, an assistant professor of business and public policy at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, and Joseph Price, a Cornell graduate student in economics, found that white referees called fouls at a greater rate against black players than against white players.

The study, conducted over a 13-year span through 2004, was based on information from publicly available box scores.

"If David Stern wants to criticize the study, it has to be on some material grounds," Wolfers said.

International no-no. The NBA sent a memo to all teams this week, reminding them that they are not allowed to discourage their players from competing in international competitions, shortly after Argentina's Manu Ginobili said the Spurs did just that.