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Carter shows toughness as Nets hold off Jazz

Nov 9, 2006 - 3:26 AM EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- Vince Carter may have been hobbling in the third quarter but still had plenty of spring in his step.

Carter came back from an quadriceps injury to score 13 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter as the New Jersey Nets held on for a 96-89 victory over the Utah Jazz, who lost for the first time this season.

Richard Jefferson scored 23 points, including the clinching jumper in the waning seconds for the Nets, who never trailed in the final 43 minutes but made things a bit interesting down the stretch.

Carter, who has been a bit brittle throughout his All-Star career, strained his quadriceps on a driving layup with 5:01 remaining in the third quarter that gave New Jersey a 59-46 lead. He initially tried to walk off the injury but left the game less than a minute later.

"It was a quad strain," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "You're always concerned when anyone gets hurt. We were happy that he was able to gut it out and finish the game. That is how competitive he is."

The superstar swingman went to the locker room for treatment but returned to the bench with less than a minute remaining in the third quarter and started the final period with the Nets holding a 70-62 lead.

"We were not sure at the time," Carter said. "I guess they just needed something to tell them. I wanted to just take my time and be assessed by the doctor. It was strained, but I just decided to play."

"Nobody knew what happened," Nets guard Jason Kidd said. "I don't know where he got hit, but you just try to hold down the fort so he can come back and take over the game."

Off to a 4-0 start, the Jazz began pecking away and closed to 88-87 on two free throws by Derek Fisher with 2:29 remaining. Carter responded with a driving layup 15 seconds later.

A layup by Matt Harpring - Utah's only basket in the final four minutes - again cut the deficit to one point, but Carter sank two free throws at the 1:32 mark.

"It is good to see that we are able to stay focused and execute," Carter said. "We didn't get the stops, but we were able to go down, get baskets and fouls."

Mehmet Okur missed jumpers on Utah's next two possessions before Jefferson sank a spinning jump shot to seal it with 16 seconds remaining. Jefferson added two foul shots to close the scoring.

"I haven't been worried about it (shooting)," said Jefferson, who made 5-of-11 shots. "I didn't miss too many shots tonight. Fortunately the last one went down and that made me feel a little better."

Kidd and Antoine Wright each scored 15 points for the Nets, who shot 42 percent (29-of-69) but sank 31-of-40 free throws.

"We knew Utah was a talented team," Kidd said. "They're going to continue to keep battling no matter how many points they are down. They are going to keep running their system. They made their run, and we didn't break."

Fisher and Carlos Boozer each scored 15 points for the Jazz, who shot 42 percent (33-of-78) and held a 48-31 rebounding advantage. Boozer, who had double-doubles in his last three games, sat for most of the fourth quarter.

"They had a small lineup out there," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "It would have been very difficult for me to play him out there. They had four guys that could put the ball on the floor."

Carter and Kidd scored 10 points apiece in the first half as New Jersey built a 47-41 lead. Carter had a layup and jumper in a 9-1 spurt that opened the third quarter and built the advantage to 56-42.

"We didn't defend early and keep them away from the rim," Fisher said. "They deserve a lot of credit for taking it to us right from the start of the game."

"I don't know why you would have a problem playing basketball," Sloan said. "We are only playing our fourth or fifth game. That's a huge concern. Are we going to just be satisfied, or are we going to compete for 48 minutes?"

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