EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — For one of the few times since acquiring Gary Payton, the Milwaukee Bucks combined scoring and defense.
The Bucks used a lightning quick 15-2 run to open the fourth quarter and limited the New Jersey Nets to 12 points in the final 12 minutes in a 104-85 victory on Wednesday night.
"It's about time we started playing right," Payton said after the Bucks snapped a four-game losing streak. "We played a little bit of defensive zone that worked pretty good for us. We made good shots. We've got to keep this up. We've got to put three or four together like we played tonight."
Rookie Marcus Haislip scored six of his 12 points in the game-deciding run that gave Milwaukee a half-game lead over Michael Jordan and the idle Washington Wizards in the race for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.
"Every game we play is critical for us," said Toni Kukoc, who ignited the game-winning spurt with a jumper. "If we were fighting for fourth or fifth, you can say: 'OK, we're in the playoffs.' When you lose a game you can go down to the ninth or 10th spot. Every win is a great win for us."
Payton had 23 points and Sam Cassell 22 for the Bucks, who were 11-for-19 from the field and 8-for-8 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter.
Michael Redd added 18 points and Desmond Mason had 17.
Kenyon Martin had 28 points and 14 rebounds for the Nets, who ran out of gas in the fourth quarter while playing their second game in as many nights against a team that hadn't played since Sunday.
New Jersey fell into second place in the Atlantic Division, percentage points behind the Philadelphia 76ers.
HORNETS 101, KNICKS 96: At New Orleans, Jamal Mashburn scored 25 and Baron Davis added 23 in his first start in nearly two months.
Mashburn also had eight rebounds and eight assists to help overcome the absence of David Wesley (bruised foot). The victory moved New Orleans ahead of Boston and into fifth in the East, while New York dropped three games behind eighth-place Milwaukee.
PACERS 102, CELTICS 72: At Indianapolis, Ron Artest committed his eighth flagrant foul of the season just five seconds after tip-off, then scored 18 points. Artest now faces a two-game suspension.
The Pacers desperately needed the win, only their third in the last 16 games. They remained in fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
TRAIL BLAZERS 94, ROCKETS 83: At Portland, Ore., Derek Anderson had 21 points and seven assists and Zach Randolph added 14 points for the Trail Blazers, who have won five of their last seven.
The Rockets were again without coach Rudy Tomjanovich, who was resting in Houston after doctors discovered a cancerous tumor on his bladder lining.
WARRIORS 105, SUPERSONICS 99: At Oakland, Calif., Antawn Jamison had 28 points and 12 rebounds, and Jason Richardson scored 25. Bob Sura added 15 points for the Warriors, who had their second win in five days over Seattle following a 14-game losing streak to their Pacific Division rivals.
MAGIC 109, HEAT 93: At Orlando, Fla., Tracy McGrady scored 21 of his 36 points in the second half and the Magic made 12 3-pointers.
McGrady had just three points in the first 19 minutes, but scored 10 straight in a 1:40 span to give the Magic a 50-43 lead with 3:18 left in the second quarter. Orlando put the game away with a 15-4 run to start the fourth.
GRIZZLIES 128, CAVALIERS 101: At Memphis, Tenn., Pau Gasol scored 28 points and Jason Williams added 16 points and 16 assists. Six Grizzlies scored in double figures as Memphis won for the seventh time in eight games. Memphis shot 61 percent from the field.
CLIPPERS 91, NUGGETS 78: At Los Angeles, Wang ZhiZhi scored a career-high 21 points as the Clippers won for only the sixth time in 27 games.
RAPTORS 87, HAWKS 86: At Toronto, Vince Carter made two go-ahead free throws with 3.7 seconds left to help the Raptors end a six-game losing streak.