Cavs, Nets Ready for Game 6

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- After the fourth quarter they played in Game 5, the New Jersey Nets were lucky they didn't spend Thursday cleaning out their lockers for the summer.

Instead, they were back on the practice court, gearing up for Friday night's Game 6 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

And if that one is as ugly as Wednesday? That's just fine with the Nets, as long as the result is also the same.

"It's all about holding on," Vince Carter said. "It doesn't matter if it's pretty. Right now, it's just get a win."

The Nets cut the Cavaliers' lead in the series to 3-2 with an 83-72 victory in Cleveland. New Jersey dominated the first three quarters, then held on with 12 minutes better suited for a team in the lottery than the second round: 1-for-15 shooting from the field, 4-of-10 from the foul line, and six points.

"I thought it was a masterpiece," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said.

Easy for him to say. The Cavs saw things differently after shooting 33 percent and blowing their first chance to secure a spot in the conference finals.

"Games like that can make it hard to sleep," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said.

Though this one didn't cost them, it was the second straight horrendous fourth quarter for the Nets. They were only 3-for-16 in the final period of their 87-85 home loss in Game 4, when they didn't make a field goal in the final 6:58.

Cleveland hasn't been much better. The Cavs were 4-of-14 in the fourth quarter of Game 4, then failed to take advantage of the Nets' woes Wednesday by missing 14 of their 17 attempts.

And if Frank is right, don't expect an offensive beauty Friday, either.

"You see it from both teams," he said. "I think when you compete so hard on the defensive end and guys are playing big minutes, it is a mental battle of overcoming fatigue and not settling on the offensive end. Because when guys pick and choose in the playoffs in terms of maximum effort, they're going to give maximum effort on the defensive end.

"So the bottom line is, if you don't score, they don't score. It's that simple."

The Cavaliers didn't practice Thursday, giving them a chance to rest a couple of injuries. LeBron James left Wednesday's game in the final minute with a right knee bruise and laceration, but has been cleared to play Friday.

Sasha Pavlovic, who has taken and given hard hits in the series, bruised his right wrist in the second quarter and will be re-evaluated Friday.

James scored only 20 points Wednesday, the second time in the last three games the Nets did a decent job on Cleveland's superstar. But the game still could have been different if Larry Hughes had made New Jersey pay for helping off him.

Hughes was only 3-of-17 from the field -- three more shot attempts than James -- and scored seven points. He is shooting 33 percent in the series -- but that's still better than reserves Donyell Marshall and Daniel Gibson.

"He had some open looks," Brown said. "It's going to be tough for us to win if they're shrinking the floor that way, and not only Larry but some of our other guys have some decent looks and we don't knock them down.

"You can't tell anybody to quit shooting. Their confidence probably is shaken a little bit already. If I tell them to quit shooting, then that's not good."

After winning the first two games, Cleveland is now in the same spot it was this time last year. The Cavs couldn't finish off Detroit in the second round, losing Games 6 and 7 and remaining without a conference finals appearance since 1992.

The Nets, lower-seeded but far more experienced in the postseason, believe they're capable of a similar comeback. Carter, Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson all bounced back from terrible outings to play well in Game 5, and if they do so again New Jersey will have a good chance to force a deciding game back in Cleveland on Sunday night.

The Cavs want no part of that.

"We've got to win our next game," Brown said. "That sense of urgency has to be there."