Jason Kidd scored 20 points as the New Jersey Nets defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 83-72 Wednesday to stay alive in the National Basketball Association playoffs.
The Nets narrowed the gap in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semi-final series to 3-2 and host game six on Friday.
The Nets have the daunting task of attempting to become the ninth team in NBA playoff history to erase a 3-1 deficit and win.
New Jersey were in a similar situation in the 2006 playoffs, falling behind 3-1 to the eventual champion Miami Heat, before losing game five in Miami, 106-105.
The Nets fared better on Wednesday, jumping out to an early lead and making it stand despite hitting just one basket in the fourth quarter.
Vince Carter, who is having a rough series shooting the ball, hit a jumper from the right wing to give the Nets an 81-70 lead with 4:01 to play.
The Nets opened up a 24-18 lead after the first quarter and led 47-39 at the half. Bostjan Nachbar scored 11 points in the first half for New Jersey, which held a 20-6 advantage in bench points over the first two quarters.
"We were pumped. Wed did not panic before the game," said Nachbar, who connected on three consecutive 3-point shots early to help the Nets go ahead. "We honestly believe we can win this series.
"I'm not trying to take anything away from Cleveland," he added. "We really believe we could win this series, and there was no doubt in my mind we could win this game."
The Nets played as if their lives depended on it in the third quarter, outscoring Cleveland 30-20 in the quarter to take a 77-59 lead.
Kidd had nine rebounds and six assists and hit a pair of big baskets in a 10-0 Nets run in the third quarter. He capped the spurt with a 3-pointer and a jumper to give New Jersey a 59-41 lead with 8:31 left in the third.
The Nets then held on despite a dismal fourth quarter in which they shot 1-of-15 from the field and 4-of-10 from the free throw line, including five misses by Kidd in the final minute.
The Cavaliers were almost as bad, shooting 3-of-17 in the final quarter. The teams combined to shoot 0-of-17 from the field in the first 6:57 of the fourth quarter.
Richard Jefferson scored 15 points, Mikki Moore 14 and Carter added 12 for New Jersey.
"The game tonight was probably the first game I can remember in a while where we played like we played when we went to the championship (in 2002 and 2003)," said Jefferson. "It was ugly. It was grind it out. It was a 'we're not scoring but you're not scoring either' mentality."
LeBron James scored 20 points and Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 15 for Cleveland. James left the game with 56 seconds to go after crashing into the Cavaliers bench while battling Kidd for a loose ball.
James said the crash left him with a sore knee that was "definitely something I'm going to take care of."