Nets 109, Bucks 96

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)—The great point guard matchup between Jason Kidd and Gary Payton was a mismatch in Game 1.

Kidd schooled his playground mentor with 14 points, 14 assists and six rebounds, holding Payton scoreless for more than 3 1/2 quarters Saturday as the defending Eastern Conference champion New Jersey Nets beat the Milwaukee Bucks 109-96.

“He set the tone,” Payton said of Kidd. “He made shots and got assists. He scored 14 points in the first quarter. His whole team played well.”

The Bucks didn’t, particularly Payton.

The perennial All-Star didn’t score until there was 4:10 to go, drawing a derisive cheer from those left in the crowd of 16,102. He finished with eight points, 10 assists and five turnovers in a game in which the Nets led by 20 at halftime and 31 early in the fourth quarter.

“They’ve had plenty of battles in their days,” Nets coach Byron Scott said. “They look forward to playing each other because of their competitive nature. Today Jason got the best of him. If you know anything about Gary Payton and how competitive he is, you know he’s going to come back with a vengeance.”

Kenyon Martin, who took an awkward fall under the basket early in the third quarter, returned quickly and had 21 points and 15 rebounds in leading seven Nets in double figures.

Kerry Kittles had 18, Lucious Harris 17 and Jason Collins added 13 points and 12 rebounds.

Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Tuesday.

Tim Thomas played well in garbage time, making five 3-pointers in the fourth quarter when he scored 19 of his 25 points. Former Net Sam Cassell added 16 points for the Bucks, who looked nothing like the team that won eight of nine down the stretch to take the No. 7 seed.

There were a lot of questions about the Nets heading into the postseason. New Jersey played sub-.500 ball after the All-Star break and dropped four of its final five to lose the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

Kidd made everyone forget those problems in less than three minutes.

He had a steal, two driving layups, a 10-foot jumper and an assist on a fast-break layup by Kittles in giving the Nets an 8-0 lead.

“Everybody was excited to get the playoff started. For me, I was trying to be even keeled,” said Kidd, who was 6-of-10 from the field. “I got a layup and a couple of shots to fall early. Everybody else got into their groove after that.”

Bucks coach George Karl tried to stem the onslaught with a timeout after just 2 minutes, 33 seconds. It didn’t help.

“They did everything they were supposed to do,” Karl said. “They ran by us, outrebounded us and they penetrated. It was disappointing how we responded to the personality we were going up against. I think in a lot of ways, they played a playoff game and we were still in the regular season.”

Kidd would add two more 3-pointers, a baseline jumper and three more assists in helping New Jersey take a 29-20 lead. Toni Kukoc kept the Bucks close with nine of his 14 points.

New Jersey took that away in the second quarter, opening a 15-point lead early on a dunk by Dikembe Mutombo, who was playing for the first time since the death of a brother on Sunday.

A late 12-0 run that featured a spectacular fast-break dunk by Richard Jefferson—Kidd, of course had the assist—stretched the lead to 55-33.

“J-Kidd is one of the best point guards in the league,” Collins said. “Today he showed it again how good he is on the defensive side of the ball. On offense, he got us off to a great start. He did a great job against Gary Payton today.”

Milwaukee never got close enough in the second half to make the Nets worry.

The only scary moment for New Jersey came in the opening minutes of the of the second half when Martin went down awkwardly after a collision with Marcus Haislip.

For a moment, it looked like a knee injury. After leaving the game for a couple of minutes, Martin returned and quickly drove the lane for a basket, sparking cheers of “Ken-yon Mar-tin.”

“I wanted to let the Bucks know it was going to be a war,” Martin said. “Hurt, not hurt, I’m not going to back down. I wanted to put it in those guys’minds that I was not going to quit.”


After an early defensive 3-second technical foul against the Nets, the Bucks made an odd decision in having Thomas to take the free throw. A 76 percent shooter from the line, Thomas had missed two earlier and Cassell, an 86 percent shooter, was on the floor. Thomas missed. … The Nets shot 54.2 percent from the field and outrebounded the Bucks 48-28. … Rodney Rogers added 11 points for the Nets and Jefferson had 10. …The Nets are now 2-10 in Game 1s of first-round playoff series. …Kidd’s 14 assists tied a Nets playoffrecord set by Micheal Ray Richardson in 1985.

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