EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- With the New Jersey Nets staring at a chance to make up ground in the Eastern Conference, Jason Kidd didn't blink.
Kidd single-handedly held off a Miami rally by scoring 13 of his 30 points in the third quarter in leading the Nets to a 99-83 victory over the struggling Heat on Friday night.
"He is one of the candidates for Most Valuable Player,'' Heat coach Pat Riley said. "He just took over the game. Kidd just took over and was not going to let his team lose. That's just the mark of a great player taking over.''
Coupled with Detroit's loss to Indiana and Philadelphia's loss to Houston, the Nets moved within a half-game of the Pistons in the race for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. They took a 1½-game lead over the 76ers in the Atlantic Division.
New Jersey (47-29) has six games left in the regular season, one
less than Detroit (47-28) and Philadelphia (45-30).
"It was one of those games we had to win,'' said Kidd, who shot
5-of-8 and had four rebounds and two assists in third quarter.
"They had nothing to lose and we had everything to lose. We took
care of business, short-handed again.''
Richard Jefferson added 18 points and Rodney Rogers came off the
bench for 12 as the Nets swept the four-game season series from
Miami for the first time.
Brian Grant had 23 points and eight rebounds and Caron Butler
had 15 points for Miami, which lost its fourth straight overall and
seventh straight on the road.
The Heat, who trailed by as many as 16 points in the second
quarter and by 13 in the opening minutes of the second half, made
it a game by scoring 10 straight points to close to 58-55 on a
jumper by Anthony Carter with 5:47 left in the quarter.
After Eddie House missed a chance to tie the game with a 3-pointer, Kidd took over, scoring 12 points in an 18-6 spurt to close the quarter.
"You have to rely on that sometimes,'' Jefferson said. "That's why you pay him the big bucks. That's why he's an All-Star. You're excited and it's great to watch. You come to expect that from him.''
Kidd, who finished with eight assists and six rebounds, started
the spurt with a left-handed layup.
After Grant hit a jumper, Kidd nailed what would be the first of
four consecutive 3-pointers for New Jersey for a 63-57 edge.
Grant hit a baseline jumper to cut the lead to five points, but Kerry Kittles and Rogers hit 3-pointers and Kidd added two more baskets to give New Jersey a 76-61 lead heading to the final quarter.
Miami never got closer than 10 after that.
"I didn't feel like I took over,'' Kidd said. "They got to three and I just got into a rhythm. Then my teammates started to look for me. At that point, I kind of took that R.J. (Jefferson) approach -- when in doubt, shoot it.''
New Jersey took the lead for good with a 17-0 spurt early in the second quarter. Jefferson had seven of the first 11 points and Kittles and Aaron Williams had four points apiece in helping the Nets open a 41-25 lead.
Miami, which had only five baskets in the first 17-plus minutes,
got back in the game as House scored 10 points in a 14-4 run to end
Nets coach Byron Scott is now 8-4 against his old mentor,
Pat Riley. ... New Jersey is 14-1 on Fridays. ...Miami has lost
nine of 12. ... New Jersey is 32-7 at home. The win total ties
Sacramento for best in the league. ... The Nets shot 47.4 percent
from the field (37 for 78). Miami shot 38.9 percent, 28 of 72. ...
New Jersey played without F Kenyon Martin and G Lucious Harris for
the third straight game.