New Jersey 96, Cleveland 85

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., May 12 (AP) -- Coming home after two losses, the New Jersey Nets knew they needed to shoot better and rebound more.

Good thing they have Jason Kidd, who can do all that and more.

Kidd had his 11th postseason triple-double, breaking a tie with Larry Bird for second place on the career list, and the Nets beat Cleveland 96-85 Saturday to cut the Cavaliers' lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals to 2-1.

"Kidd was obviously a monster,'' Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "You have to give him credit. He did what he's supposed to do. He stepped it up. He was aggressive. He scored for them, he got them easy looks, and last but not least the man rebounded and he was huge on that glass.''

Kidd, who is averaging a triple-double in this postseason, finished with 23 points, 14 assists and 13 rebounds. For good measure, he even took some turns defending LeBron James, who was limited to 18 points in the lowest-scoring postseason game of his career.

"He was terrific. His intensity, his ability to attack the paint, his will and doing it on both ends playing at such a high energy level,'' Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "The triple-double, that is obviously such a tangible thing. He was tremendous on both ends. As a captain he set a great tone playing throughout their runs. He was obviously very, very special.''

Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson also scored 23 points for the Nets, who won their 10th straight home game and will try to even the series Monday night in Game 4 before it returns to Cleveland for Game 5 on Wednesday.

James was just 5-of-16 from the field and failed to score at least 20 points for the first time in his 20 playoff games. He added 12 assists, but looked frustrated late in the game after hitting the bottom of the rim on a reverse layup attempt.

James said the Nets did "pretty much nothing'' special to stop him.

"I just tried to be patient and take what's there,'' he said. "I missed a lot of easy shots.''

Most importantly for New Jersey, the Nets controlled the backboards after the Cavs pummeled them in the first two games, piling up a 100-69 rebounding advantage, including 39-12 on the offensive end.

"I have to give credit to our bigs,'' Jefferson said. "They did a great job of keeping them off the glass. In the first two games, there were some things we were doing defensively that I think were putting us in a bad way on the offensive glass and we adjusted to that.''

This time, New Jersey held a 43-30 edge and limited Drew Gooden and Zydrunas Ilgauskas to a combined 12 rebounds.

"They did a good job of keeping a body on me and Z,'' Gooden said. "But at the same time we didn't shoot the ball well and they shot the ball great, so there go the rebounds.''

The Nets have never recovered to win any of the 11 previous series they trailed 2-0, but the odds would have been much worse with a loss Saturday. NBA teams that lose the first three games are 0-for-81.

New Jersey saw its 15-point lead trimmed to four early in the fourth, but scored eight straight points to regain control and hand the Cavs their first loss of this postseason. Cleveland had won 10 in a row dating to the regular season.

With the rebounds no longer the problem they were in Cleveland, the Nets were able to get their transition game going for the first time in the series. New Jersey had a 20-10 advantage in fast-break points, with Kidd often grabbing the defensive board and triggering the break himself.

Kidd shot 8-of-12, including 5-of-6 on 3-pointers. He had his second triple-double of this postseason, but is still well behind Magic Johnson, who had 30 postseason triple-doubles.

"The records don't mean anything unless you win,'' said Kidd, averaging 14.6 points, 12.2 assists and 10.3 rebounds in nine playoff games. "It's about winning and that's the bottom line. The triple-double doesn't mean anything unless you win.''

As the Nets started to speed things up, the Cavs delivered two hard fouls on Jefferson in the third quarter. Mikki Moore and Anderson Varejao went face-to-face jawing at each other on the second one, drawing double technical fouls.

But the Nets wouldn't be bullied this time, pushing the lead to 15 when Jefferson made two free throws after the second hard foul. The Nets held Cleveland to 41 percent shooting.

The Cavs were just 5-of-18 (28 percent) in the first quarter, when the Nets led by 11 before settling for a 22-15 lead. James had a double tough break at the end of the period when he made a layup while taking a shot across the face from Jefferson. Alas, the basket came after the buzzer, and there was no foul called on the play.

New Jersey pushed the lead to 12 midway through the second, but Cleveland scored 15 straight while holding the Nets scoreless for more than 4 minutes to take a 40-37 lead. Kidd followed with a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws to put the Nets back on top, and they led 45-43 at halftime.

Notes: Houston All-Star Tracy McGrady, Carter's cousin, was at the game seated behind Cleveland's bench. ... James' streak of 20-point games to start a playoff career is second-longest in history behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's 27 in a row. ... The Nets put G Eddie House on the active roster after he missed the final 11 games of the regular season and the first eight of the playoffs because of a partial tear in his left hip muscle. He didn't play until the final minute.

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