Kidd suffered a huge gash over his right eye in a first-half collision and never really recovered as the Nets were dealt a 115-97 loss by the Charlotte Hornets, who got back into their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Baron Davis had 26 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and seven steals for the Hornets, who lost the first two games of the series on the road but were rejuvenated by returning to Charlotte Coliseum -- which again was practically half empty.
Late in the first half, Kidd was dribbling quickly upcourt when he had the ball poked away from behind by Davis. He tried to run down the loose ball but instead ran into Hornets guard David Wesley in a head-on collision.
Play continued for several seconds as both players went down in pain. Wesley was woozy, while Kidd had blood streaming down his face and neck. The guards were taken to their respective locker rooms before Charlotte went to halftime with a 51-45 lead.
Wesley started the second half but Kidd did not, beginning on the bench with a huge bandage covering seven stitches over his right eyebrow. Without their All-Star point guard, the Nets lacked direction on offense and could do nothing to slow down Davis on defense.
"Jason's absence gave us problems," Nets coach Byron Scott said. "We did a bad job executing our offense and never really got into a flow."
Davis scored 16 points in the third quarter, when Charlotte led by as many as 16 points before settling for an 84-69 advantage entering the final period. Although Kidd returned, he clearly was hurting and unable to rally his team.
"Jason was not in synch when he came back, and that hurt them a lot," Hornets coach Paul Silas said.
"He had a cut over his eye that was pretty bad and we were more worried about him," nets swingman Richard Jefferson said. "When we back out there and our focus wasn't where it needed to be."
Kidd played just 28 minutes, finishing with 13 points, seven rebounds and six assists. He committed five turnovers and was not a factor after the injury. He did not speak to the media after the game.
"I am sure Jason has a headache, just like I do," Wesley said.
Wesley scored 16 of his 22 points before the collision for Charlotte, which had six players in double figures, shot 55 percent (41-of-75) from the field and controlled the backboards, 45-36.
"David was key for us tonight," Davis said. "He is one of the big reasons we won. He was hot early and helped us build our lead."
The Hornets are awaiting approval for their move to New Orleans, which should come from the NBA's Board of Governors on Friday. They drew just 11,363 and hope to have a larger crowd for Game Four on Sunday, which could be their last at Charlotte Coliseum. "The fans that do come are loud and cheering and we appreciate it," Wesley said. "They are giving it their all."
Jefferson scored many of his 16 points in garbage time for the Nets, who never led and shot just 42 percent (34-of-81).
New Jersey got a taste of what Charlotte has dealt with been throughout the playoffs. Hornets leading scorer Jamal Mashburn has played just 10 minutes due to complications of anemia.
"Kidd is their leader," Silas said. "When your leader goes down, you struggle. That's what happened to New Jersey."
"Jason's leaving had a negative impact," Nets forward Kenyon Martin said. "When your leader goes down, it's hard to swallow."
After Kerry Kittles opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer to halve the deficit, Davis had a pair of baskets as Charlotte scored seven straight points. Kidd returned less than a minute later and his jumper pulled New Jersey within 61-55 with 7:22 to go, but Davis answered with a 3-pointer.
Two free throws by Davis and a pair by Wesley extended the lead to 76-60 with 2:26 left. The Hornets made 8-of-14 shots in the third quarter.
"I was shaky when I got up, but after I came back in the locker room and sat down for a while, things started to come back to me," Wesley said.
Kidd began the final period on the bench, and the Nets closed to 86-74 on two foul shots by Jefferson with just under 10 minutes to go. Kidd returned but had no effect as consecutive baskets by Lee Nailon and a jumper by George Lynch widened the lead to 92-74.
In a telling play, Wesley's fast-break layup had Kidd backpedaling and shying away. It gave Charlotte a 98-77 lead with 6:26 left.
"He tried going back into the game in the second half, but with about six minutes to go, I knew it was over, so I got him out of there," Scott said.
"We still needed to play without Jason, but we just couldn't get over the hump," Martin said.
Jamaal Magloire had 16 points and nine rebounds and Lynch added 12 and 12 for the Hornets. Martin scored 13 points and Keith Van Horn had 12 for the Nets.
"Magloire had a great game, Lynch had double-digit rebounds and when you combine that with them shooting 55 percent, we're just not going to win," Scott said.
The Hornets opened a 28-18 lead after one quarter largely without Davis, who missed his first six shots before a thunderous dunk late in the period.
Charlotte averted another injury to a key player when Davis twisted his left ankle as he stepped on Martin's foot while making a driving layup late in the first half. He hobbled around for a couple of possessions before playing through it.
"I did not want to go back to the sideline and have it stiffen up," Davis said. "I told coach I wanted to stand and keep it loose."