EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Jason Kidd won the point guard showdown with Baron Davis somewhat by default.
With the game on the line, Kidd stepped up for the New Jersey Nets and Davis disappeared for the Charlotte Hornets.
Kidd hit a go-ahead jumper and scored six of the Nets' final eight points to lead New Jersey to a 99-93 victory over the undermanned Hornets in the opening game of the Eastern Conference semifinal series on Sunday.
"I had to be aggressive," Kidd said after finishing with 21 points to lead seven Nets in double figures. "I was riding my teammates for a while. They got us that far, so I knew I had to do something.
"I should have gotten a box of popcorn because I was watching everyone else play for so long. I was very lucky that those shots went down."
While Kidd was taking the big shots, Davis was passing the ball to open teammates in crunch time, and they weren't hitting.
David Wesley and Stacey Augmon each threw up an air ball with the Hornets down 95-91 in the final two minutes.
"You have to make plays," Davis said, who did not take a shot in the final 5:45. "I am a little disappointed in myself in that I didn't make as many plays as I should have on the offensive end. On the other hand, we got some open shots that we usually make and missed them."
Davis finished with 23 points and a Hornets playoff record seven steals, but he only took four shots in the final quarter of a game that was there for the taking.
"They started double-teaming him, but he had the ball in his hands," Hornets coach Paul Silas said. "...He has to be more aggressive."
Elden Campbell had 22 points for Charlotte, which played a great game despite not having Jamal Mashburn (viral illness) and Jamaal Magliore (suspension).
Game 2 is back in New Jersey on Tuesday night.
Campbell tied the game at 91, hitting one of two free throws with 3:04 to play.
After that, it was all Kidd, who surprisingly only had one rebound and two assists in the final three quarters.
Immediately after a timeout, Kidd dribbled around a screen by Aaron Williams and hit a jumper to give the Nets a 93-91 lead with 2:53 to go.
Campbell rimmed a jumper at the other end and Kidd hit a jumper in the lane for a 95-91 lead with 2:21 to play.
"Jason was being Jason," Nets coach Byron Scott said. "When the game is on the line and the score is tied, I am calling his number."
It didn't surprise the Hornets.
"He has been doing it all year," said Hornets forward P.J. Brown, who missed about six minutes in the second half with an ankle injury. "He did it against Indiana in Game 5. We knew to expect that. He wants the ball in his hands in crunch time and he hit some big-time shots for them again tonight."
Charlotte had a couple of chances after falling behind by four points, but Augmon and Wesley missed open shots badly and eventually Williams stretched the lead to 97-91 with two free throws with 1:15 left.
Two free throws by Campbell with 1:04 to play got Charlotte within four points, but the Hornets' final chance was lost when Lucious Harris got an offensive rebound on a miss by Kenyon Martin.
Kidd iced the game with a crossover layup with 19.6 seconds to play.
"Tonight was round one," Brown said of the Kidd-Davis matchup. "This whole series revolves around them. As you saw tonight, Jason took those guys on his back and took them to victory tonight."
In hindsight, the Hornets seemed to be in control until early in the third quarter when Campbell picked up his fourth foul. The Nets took advantage inside to turn a six-point halftime deficit into a 77-73 lead entering the final period.
Todd MacCulloch, who had 23 points in five games in New Jersey's first-round series with Indiana, had 11 of his 14 in the third quarter.
The Nets started only their second conference semifinal as if they were going to blow out the Hornets, using the fastbreak to score 11 of the first 13 points.
It didn't take long for Charlotte to slow the game down and Davis, who threw up three air balls on his first four shots, suddenly found the range. He hit six of his next seven shots and finished the half with 15 points as the Hornets led 51-45.
Notes: Charlotte outscored New Jersey 22-19 on the fastbreak, 42-38 in the paint and 19-12 on second chance points. The Hornets only shot 39.1 percent (36-for-92). New Jersey won because it shot 51.4 percent (36-of-70). ... Mashburn, who averaged 24.7 points in three games against the Nets, missed his fourth straight game with lingering effects of virus and vitamin deficiency. His status for Game 2 is uncertain. ... Magliore missed the game, serving a one-game NBA suspension. He is eligible to play on Tuesday. ... Nets backup point guard Anthony Johnson sprained his right thumb in warmups. ... Nets coach Byron Scott on the return of his wife, Anita, who missed the deciding Game 5 in the first round with Indiana: "The A-Team is back." ... The first conference semifinal in New Jersey since 1984 was about 1,000 people shy of a sellout.