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Harris, Nets finish with flourish, down Knicks

Mar 9, 2009 - 2:11 AM EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- Devin Harris had 35 points and 10 assists as the New Jersey Nets secured a critical win in the race for the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot, 106-101, over the New York Knicks on Sunday.

Vince Carter collected 25 points and nine rebounds for the Nets, who trailed by as many as nine points in the second half - and by one with 2:47 left - but finished the game on a 8-2 run.

"We just had to persevere," Carter said. "We knew people were going to make some mistakes but we have to make sure we see things through and play hard because you never know what's going to happen.

"It's all about the way you think, it's not how you start a game, it's how you finish it."

New Jersey (28-35) is one game behind the idle Chicago Bulls (29-34) for the eighth seed in the East. The Knicks (25-37) are 3 1/2 games back.

Danilo Gallinari's three gave New York a one-point lead, 99-98, before Brook Lopez's hook shot put the Nets ahead for good with 1:54 left.

Harris then provided perhaps the game's most important play with 1:15 remaining, when he converted a wide-open transition layup after swiping the ball from Larry Hughes, who thought he was fouled and gave up on the play.

The bucket made it a one-possession game with the Nets in the lead, 102-99, and set up a miserable finish for the Knicks, who misfired on two potential game-tying threes in the final 25 seconds.

"I thought we made some big defensive plays when we needed to," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "Obviously, we had some big steals that led to easy baskets. I think, obviously, a lot of credit is going to Devin and Vince for obvious reasons."

After David Lee stole Carter's pass, Wilson Chandler missed an uncontested three from the left corner. Lee tapped the rebound out to Hughes, whose shot from the arc was flat and short with 16 ticks left.

New York fouled twice to put itself in the penalty, allowing Harris to hit two free throws to forge New Jersey's largest lead of the game, 104-99, with 15 seconds remaining.

Lee had 19 points and 14 rebounds for the Knicks, who also lost to the Charlotte Bobcats - another Eastern playoff contender - on Saturday night.

"Same thing as (Saturday's) game, we had chances to win both games," Lee said. "It's frustrating because these are two very important games.

"The majority of teams in the East are separated by a few games. And those games are decided by five points in either direction. It's a very slim margin, and we have to try and be on the right end of those."