Carter's 41 lifts Nets past slumping 76ersDec 3, 2006 - 3:22 AM EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- The New Jersey Nets have some questions marks this season. On Saturday, Vince Carter had all the answers.
Carter scored a season-high 41 points and repeatedly turned aside rallies as the Nets moved into first place in the awful Atlantic Division, holding on for a 112-107 victory over the sliding Philadelphia 76ers.
Richard Jefferson scored 24 points and Nenad Krstic added 20 for the Nets, who shot 49 percent (42-of-86) from the field and have won two in a row following a six-game losing streak.
"The most important thing is that we are trying to get wins and protect home," Carter said. "We tried to come out and be aggressive at the beginning and set the tone for our team."
"I believe winning is contagious," teammate Jason Kidd said. "The locker room is a little more soulful, a little bit more joyful, and not because it is the holidays but because we're winning."
Opening a six-game homestand, New Jersey (7-9) remained in front of Toronto in the Atlantic, where no team is above .500. Philadelphia (5-10) could have moved into first place with a win but instead fell into last with its 10th loss in 12 games.
"We have a 5-10 record, and at times things get really frustrating," 76ers superstar guard Allen Iverson said. "It's hard to play basketball when you're not having fun because it's a fun game and it's something I want to do every day (for) the rest of my life. I just have to get back to being myself on the basketball court."
With an array of drives, dunks and jumpers, Carter controlled the game. He made 15-of-22 shots and 8-of-9 free throws, adding eight rebounds and four assists.
The Nets led by 15 points in the third quarter before the 76ers closed to 85-79 early in the final period on a steal and slam by Willie Green. Carter answered with a reverse slam before finding Jason Collins for a dunk and a 10-point lead.
"(Carter) makes the game a little bit easier for everyone else," Kidd said. "He had a great game."
The Sixers kept coming behind Iverson, who had 37 points, 10 assists and five steals. He had takeaways on three straight possessions, the last leading to rookie Rodney Carney's layup that made it 94-91 with 3:52 to play.
"We started playing too late," Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks said. "When we got down 15 points, the sense of urgency kicked in and we defended and rebounded and got some open court play. Before that, I don't think the sense of urgency was there."
Krstic converted a key three-point play after two offensive rebounds by the Nets. A layup by Iverson was offset by Carter, who threw in a hook and found Jefferson for a three-point play and a 102-93 lead with 1:56 remaining.
"We didn't do our job protecting our lead, so at that point in time we can't just sit back and look at each other. We have to find a way to win," Carter said. "We got it done."
Trailing by 11 points in the final minute, the Sixers threw a scare into the Nets with a 12-2 run. New Jersey missed four free throws and saw its lead trimmed to 108-107 by a three-point play from Iverson with 4.4 seconds left.
Carter made two free throws with 3.8 seconds to go, giving Philadelphia a chance to tie the game. But Andre Iguodala threw away the inbounds pass.
"We were under control and it never got to a point where we were stressed," Jefferson said.
Kidd had nine points, 13 assists and nine rebounds for the Nets. He fell just shy of his 78th career triple-double, which would have tied the legendary Wilt Chamberlain for third on the all-time list.
Carney started for injured forward Kyle Korver and scored a season-high 20 points and Chris Webber added 15 and 12 rebounds for Philadelphia, which has lost six straight road games.
"Rodney's play was unbelievable. He was great," Cheeks said. "He got in the open court and made some shots and made some incredible plays. But he's a rookie and he has a long way to go."
"My defense led to offense," said Carney, who made 10-of-19 shots but missed all three free throws. "We got some run-outs, some easy buckets. My free throws weren't falling in too good. I just tried to help the team the best way I could."
Both teams got healthier. The Nets saw the debut of reserve guard Eddie House, who had missed the first 15 games after having surgery to repair torn knee cartilage and scored five points.
The Sixers welcomed back big men Webber and Steven Hunter, each of whom had missed the last six games with injuries. However, Philadelphia was without forwards Korver (ankle sprain) and Shavlik Randolph (ankle surgery).
A 3-pointer by House capped a 9-2 burst that gave New Jersey a 43-35 lead with 3:54 left in the first half. Carter scored 17 points and Jefferson 16 to offset 18 from Iverson and 14 from Carney, giving the Nets a 56-49 halftime advantage.
Early in the third quarter, Carter fell hard on his right wrist. But he shook off the injury and had a follow shot and alley-oop dunk to complete a 10-2 surge that widened the margin to 71-59.
"I had to get up for a second and make sure every thing was working," Carter said. "Then I had to get back to work. It was a little sore, but we needed a win."
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