Jefferson, Carter help Nets hold off WizardsNov 9, 2007 - 5:20 AM By Carl Dispoto PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- Five games into the 2007-08 campaign, Vince Carter feels like his season has just begun.
Carter matched his season high with 24 points and followed Richard Jefferson's decisive free throws by blocking Gilbert Arenas' shot in the final seconds as the New Jersey Nets rallied from a 20-point deficit for an 87-85 win over the winless Washington Wizards on Wednesday.
Vince Carter added 24 points for the Nets, who have won three straight since an embarrassing 106-69 loss to the Toronto Raptors at home last Friday.
Carter made just 18-of-55 shots and scored a total of 61 points in his first four games. But he seemed to regain some of his rhythm, making 6-of-13 shots from the floor and 12-of-14 free throws - joking that the game represented his season opener.
"It was my season opener and it was fun," Carter said. "I'm not really worried about my offense, I knew it would come sooner or later. My mentality is to just continue to be aggressive, shoot the ball with confidence and try to get easy baskets. You just have to keep playing until things go your way."
"I congratulated him on joining us in the 2007-08 season," Jefferson said. "He was big for us. He hit some big shots and made some big defensive plays. It was huge for us tonight."
Jefferson led the team in scoring for the fifth time in as many games with 25 points. He appeared to seal the outcome with a three-point play for an 85-79 cushion at 1:53, but the Wizards scored six straight points - all on free throws - as Caron Butler forged an 85-85 tie by sinking a pair with 39 seconds left.
Carter misfired on a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession, but Jefferson outjumped two Wizards for the rebound and was fouled with 24 seconds to go. Jefferson sank both free throws, making him 12-of-12 from the line in the game and 46-of-47 this season.
The Wizards inbounded to Arenas, who raced downcourt but was guarded tightly by Antoine Wright. Carter helped Wright crowd Arenas in the right corner before getting a piece of Arenas' off-balance jumper in the final seconds.
"I was going for the win," Arenas said. "When I made my initial move to go left, I should have just stayed left. It was a bad shot."
"I got a fingertip on it," Carter said. "I just wanted to contest it and make it as tough as possible because he is capable of making shots like that."
Bostjan Nachbar scored 10 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter and Jason Kidd had 10 assists and eight rebounds for the Nets, who host the Boston Celtics on Saturday.
Arenas started despite having fluid drained from his ailing left knee on Wednesday morning. He had 21 points and six assists but made only four of his final 14 shots after a hot start.
Antawn Jamison had 24 points and nine rebounds and Butler added 21, seven and seven steals for the Wizards, who have lost their first four games for the first time since the 1992-93 season.
"It seems bad, but last year we were 4-9 at the beginning of the season," Arenas said. "We just have to escape out of this month alive."
Arenas' performance mirrored the season for Washington, which entered the game with the worst shooting percentage in the league but made 7-of-10 shots while scoring 16 straight points early in the first quarter.
Jamison made back-to-back baskets to give Washington its largest lead at 37-17 with 7:07 left in the second quarter before the Wizards faded and the sluggish Nets finally came to life.
After scoring just 17 points in the game's first 19 minutes, New Jersey scored 19 of the next 21 in a span of 6:40 - led by seven from Carter. The Nets made 5-of-11 shots from the floor during the spurt and their newfound aggressiveness showed up at the free-throw line, where they were 9-of-11.
Meanwhile, Washington missed eight of its final nine shots in the half and continued to struggle in the third, making only 5-of-22 shots as New Jersey changed its defensive approach.
"They threw in a zone that did a good job against us. The zone was the game-changer," Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. "We haven't worked against it enough to be comfortable with it."
"Our defense in the second half gave us a chance," Jefferson said.
Carter missed his only two shots in the third quarter but made 9-of-10 free throws and sank 1-of-2 with eight seconds left to give the Nets their first lead since 2-0.
Jamison scored nine points in the third, but his teammates managed just eight on 2-of-16 shooting.
NEW JERSEY 87 FINAL
Nov 8 9:58 PM
NEW JERSEY 57 END, 3RD QTR
Nov 8 9:22 PM
NEW JERSEY 36 HALFTIME
Nov 8 8:36 PM
NEW JERSEY 15 END, 1ST QTR
Nov 8 8:04 PM
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