NEW JERSEY 89, MILWAUKEE 82 ---------------------------
EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- This time, the New Jersey Nets made their free throws.
In a game where baskets were at a premium, the Nets made 11-of-12 free throws in the final three minutes and squeezed out an 89-82 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks in the pivotal fifth game of their Eastern Conference first-round series.
Jason Kidd scored 19 points for the second-seeded Nets, who took a 3-2 series lead and can advance to the conference semifinals with a win at Milwaukee on Thursday.
"At this time of year, you just want to win," Kidd said. "It doesn't matter if it's pretty or not. It just shows the character of this team."
In Game Four, the Nets undid a furious rally with poor free-throw shooting. They made just 8-of-18 foul shots in the fourth quarter and couple more in overtime, absorbing a 119-114 loss.
On Tuesday, New Jersey was clinging to a one-point lead when Jason Collins was fouled with 2:35 to play. He made both free throws and two more after a foul shot by Milwaukee's Toni Kukoc, giving the Nets an 80-76 lead with 2:05 remaining.
Kidd made a pair 30 seconds later, then answered Desmond Mason's bank shot with a runner in the lane for an 84-78 lead with 1:03 to go.
Richard Jefferson and Lucious Harris each made two foul shots before Kidd added one in the waning seconds.
"That's the best part of this game - redemption," Kidd said. "We were confident and we went up there and knocked them down. We pretty much made them all in the fourth quarter except for me."
On Sunday, Collins and Harris missed potential tying free throws and Jefferson missed a potential go-ahead foul shot. After going 33-of-47 from the line, the Nets made 31-of-38 on Tuesday, although Jefferson downplayed the importance of the foul shooting.
"We didn't hit our free throws down the stretch in Game Three and we won the game," he said. "It was a freak game that happens (Game Four). We knocked down our free throws today. Making our free throws won't be the determining factor of the series."
Bucks guard Gary Payton, who scored 16 points, thought differently.
It was a one-point game and we had the ball about three or four times and we couldn't score," he said. "We started fouling and they started hitting their free throws."
New Jersey needed every point it could get as it shot less than 34 percent (27-of-80) from the field. Milwaukee was not much better, shooting 34 percent (26-of-76).
"I thought it was a hell of a basketball game," Bucks coach George Karl said. "To have an opportunity to win a game shooting 35 percent on the road, I thought it showed the courage of my team."
"It's pretty safe to say that defense won this game," Nets coach Byron Scott said. "We did a good job of containing them."
The teams combined for 62 fouls and eight technicals. During a stretch of nearly five minutes in the final period, the only basket was a layup by Jefferson with 3:47 to play that gave the Nets a 76-73 lead.
"There was a lot of defense going on out there," Bucks guard Sam Cassell said. "There was a lot of banging. We respect them and they respect us. It's just that they won the game."
Earlier in the period, Kerry Kittles sank three 3-pointers. The last one gave the Nets the lead for good at 74-71 with 6:20 to play. Meanwhile, the Bucks were mired in a stretch of 5:51 without a basket.
"They got a lift from Kittles and from their defense," Karl said. "Their defensive confidence is probably as strong as it was in the entire series."
The drought ended at the 1:21 mark on Mason's banker, but Kidd responded with his runner in the lane.
"I felt very confident," Kidd said. "These are the types of plays that I liked to be involved in. I'll never shy away from it."
"Kidd made one tough shot in the fourth quarter," Karl said. "We didn't do that."
Jefferson had 17 points and 16 rebounds and Kittles scored 15 points for the Nets, who tied a playoff franchise record set exactly 19 years ago with 54 rebounds. They had 26 second-chance points.
Kukoc scored 18 points, Cassell added 16 and Mason 14 for the Bucks, who had just 40 rebounds and 12 assists.
The Nets led by as many as nine points in the second quarter before settling for a 44-38 halftime lead. But they missed their first five shots of the third quarter, and a jumper by Tim Thomas pulled Milwaukee into a 46-46 tie.