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Carter lifts Nets, drops Bulls in East standings

Apr 19, 2007 - 5:33 AM EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- While Vince Carter helped lift the New Jersey Nets, he dropped the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference standings.

Carter collected 24 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists and Mikki Moore had 22 points and nine rebounds as the New Jersey Nets secured the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference with a 106-97 victory over the Bulls.

Winners of eight of their last 10, the Nets (41-41) ended the season tied with sliding Washington (41-41) but won the tiebreaker by defeating the Wizards all four times this season.

"We feel good about ourselves first and foremost," Carter said. "We've turned ourselves around the last 20 games and have been playing well. We've been helping each other defensively. Now, it's the second season and it's crunch time. We definitely feel like we're rolling as we head into the playoffs.

"I'm excited about the turnaround we've made. How hard this team has worked to get back in and go from fighting for position to getting the best possible seed. The effort and the way we've played in the last month is exciting."

With the loss, Chicago (49-33) fell to the East's fifth spot - one game behind Cleveland (50-32) - and will play the defending champion Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs.

"Same team we played in the first round last year and a team we're pretty familiar with," Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich said. "So, hopefully we can go out there and get the job done. We have confidence that we can do that. It's just a matter of, you know, they have so many weapons and so much experience, it's going to be a tough series."

"The seeding came down to this one game, and we didn't play very well," Chicago coach Scott Skiles said. "There is no reason not to say that, we didn't. So, now we have to get in the gym, get to work and get ready for Miami."

New Jersey will play the Toronto Raptors (47-35) in the first round. Carter will be playing against his former team in a hostile environment.

"We knew if we won, where we would play," Carter said. "That's where it all started. You're going to have good and bad times, but the good outweighed the bad. They didn't boo me as much the last two games (in Toronto), but I didn't play that well so maybe that's why."

Owning the tiebreaker, the Bulls only needed a win to secure the second seed but did not come through and fell in the standings after the Cavaliers routed lowly Milwaukee earlier Wednesday night.

The three division winners are guaranteed a top-four seed, so Chicago fell behind Atlantic Division champion Toronto and the Southeast Division-winning Heat (44-38). As a result, the Bulls will face Miami, which eliminated Chicago in six games in last season's first round.

Carter was 10-of-23 from the field, including 3-of-7 from the arc, and fell one assist shy of his third triple-double in his last seven games. Moore shot 8-of-11 from the floor for the Nets, who outscored the Bulls, 35-27, in the final period.

"He's so talented," Nets point guard Jason Kidd said of Carter. "Everybody talks about his jumping ability and how he could score, but he makes the game so easy by finding the open guy. For him to have a triple-double in New York, and nearly have one tonight, it just shows his overall game. He's not just a scorer, he's the total package."

Hinrich had 20 points and nine assists and Luol Deng added 15 and 11 rebounds for Chicago, which shot 42 percent (35-of-83).

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