INDIANAPOLIS, April 30 (Ticker) -- Austin Croshere and the Indiana Pacers seemingly could not miss in the third quarter. Jason Kidd and the New Jersey Nets could not sink shots the entire game.

With Jermaine O'Neal plagued by foul trouble, Croshere scored 18 points off the bench, including nine in the decisive third quarter, as the eighth-seeded Pacers forced a decisive fifth game in their first-round Eastern Conference series against the top-seeded Nets with a 97-74 blowout.

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After Kidd capped an 8-0 run with a fast-break layup to get New Jersey within 47-45 with 7:31 remaining in the third quarter, Croshere countered with a 3-pointer to trigger a 17-1 burst.

Austin Croshere scored half of his team-high tying 18 points in the decisive third quarter.
Ron Hoskins
NBAE/Getty Images
"Remember me, Austin Croshere?" joked Croshere, who did not play in Game Three. "I got a chance to get some minutes tonight due to Jermaine's early foul trouble and the coaches let me play through my early problems. Sometimes this doesn't happen. I made some mistakes and they let me play through those. I prepare to play every game and was prepared to go as long and as much as called on."

"It's a five-game series and in each game different people will have a chance to step up," said New Jersey forward Aaron Williams, who had just three points on 1-of-7 shooting. "Fortunately for Indiana, (Croshere) stepped up big for them tonight."

Brad Miller ended the run with a pair of free throws to make it 64-46 with 3:14 remaining, and the Nets got no closer than 14 points thereafter.

"Everyone knows that the third quarter was real big for us," said Indiana forward Ron Artest, who had seven points in the period. "We all stepped up, made big plays on offense and defense, matched their energy and took ours to the next level.

"We played as if there is no tomorrow. Now we must go up there, keep our energy level high and play as hard and as tough as we possibly can."

Indiana made 67 percent of its shots (12-of-18) in the third quarter and carried a 68-53 advantage into the final period.

Artest collected 18 points and Reggie Miller 14 for the Pacers, who shot 54 percent (30-of-76) overall to snap a three-game home playoff losing streak.

Kidd had 10 points but shot just 4-of-15 for the Nets, who were held under 40 percent (30-of-76). Kenyon Martin was 5-of-16 for 13 points to pace New Jersey, which is seeking just its second postseason series victory and first since a five-game upset of defending NBA champion Philadelphia in 1984.

Outscored on the break, 56-21, in the first three games of the series, the Pacers had 24 fast-break points -- eight more than the Nets.

"This was very unfortunate for us tonight," New Jersey coach Byron Scott said. "We played as if we had the one-game cushion and our players just didn't show up. Fortunately, our goal was to get the split and get home-court advantage. That was the only plus that I could see."

After a back-and-forth first 14 minutes that featured six ties and 12 lead changes, Indiana went ahead for good, 28-25, on a layup and free throw by Brad Miller with 7 1/2 minutes left in the second quarter. The Pacers held a 38-33 halftime advantage.

"We thought that only being down five at the half that we had a good chance to win the game," Kidd said. "However, they had a big third quarter and we came out flat. The margin of the game doesn't matter, whether it was two or 20 points. You can't look at it as anything but a loss. We have to take away the good and the bad from this game and use it in Game Five."

Game Five is Thursday in New Jersey, with the winner facing the Charlotte Hornets in the conference semifinals.

"We're the eight seed, the pressure is on them," Pacers coach Isiah Thomas said. "It's going to be a dogfight. We've won there before, we can win there again."

"Anytime you are in a winner-take-all, that's where the fun begins," Reggie Miller said. "It comes down to the little things, the fundamental things. Both teams are facing elimination. It will be a flat-out fight."