EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -A bad start and horrible finish ended the New Jersey Nets' playoff hopes against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night.
In between those sequences in Game 6 that ended with the Cavs winning 88-72 to wrap up the Eastern Conference semifinal, Jason Kidd added another chapter to his legacy as one of the NBA's best point guards by nearly rallying the Nets from a 22-point first-half deficit.
``Jason Kidd is probably the best point guard I have seen in my whole life,'' James said after Cleveland advanced to the conference final for the first time since 1992.
Kidd was phenomenal in the third quarter, almost willing the Nets back from a 15-point deficit after James went to the bench with his fourth foul.
The 12-year veteran was 6-of-10 from the field and had three rebounds and two assists in New Jersey's 16-2 run that brought the Nets within 61-60 at the end of three quarters.
As Kidd walked to the bench, the Cavaliers seemed on the ropes. The crowd was roaring, James had been sitting for more than seven minutes and his teammates were looking at each other for answers.
All that was left for the Nets to force a Game 7 was to close out the fourth quarter.
James never let that happen, helped in large part by major contributions from little-used backups Donyell Marshall and Daniel Gibson, who combined for 17 fourth-quarter points.
The Nets scored 12 points in their last quarter of the season, and the reason was obvious. Kidd was gassed.
He threw up an airball on a 3-pointer early in the period and never got his legs back. He went to the bench with 9:38 to play and no one else stepped up. Not Vince Carter. Not Richard Jefferson.
``When we got it down to one I was spent,'' said Kidd, who averaged a triple-double for the playoffs. ``Once I shot the airball I knew I was tired. I was hoping someone would pick it up when I left but unfortunately that didn't happen.''
New Jersey, which struggled all season with fourth-quarter shooting woes, had another bad last quarter to end the season. The Nets went 2-for-16 with the game on the line and only 7-of-12 from the free throw line.
``We exerted so much energy we didn't have much left,'' Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. ``We ran out of gas and couldn't score and couldn't get stops.''
Carter, who can opt out of his contract after this season, also struggled when his team needed him. He scored 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting from the field.
``I felt we could go far, we just had to do the job collectively,'' Carter said. ``It's tough.''
What the Nets will find hard to accept is the fact they came out flat for the biggest game of the season.
New Jersey was 3-of-19 in a 30-6 Cavaliers' spurt that gave them a 39-17 lead.
The Nets got within 15 at halftime and within a point entering the final quarter, but they never got over the hump.
``It's disappointing,'' forward Bostjan Nachbar said. ``We thought we would win the series. We were confident but the end result doesn't show the whole picture. We could have done a little better. I don't want to take nothing away from them, but ... .''

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