for this game

Carter keeps Nets in reach of playoff berth

Mar 25, 2008 - 3:53 AM By Larry Fleisher PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Three losses to the New York Knicks are among the reasons why the New Jersey Nets are not assured of a playoff spot. They avoided a sweep and treated this one like another game in their postseason push.

Vince Carter scored 27 points as the Nets posted an important 106-91 victory over the Knicks on Monday night at Madison Square Garden.

Richard Jefferson added 26 points and Nenad Krstic contributed a season-high 22 for New Jersey, which is seeking its seventh consecutive playoff berth.

The Nets moved a step in the right direction by shooting under 54 percent (37-of-69), including 10-of-17 from 3-point range.

"I know that we're playing the last 11 games of the season and all that doesn't really matter," Carter said.

"You never want to get swept, especially against a team that is supposed to be your rival," Nets center Josh Boone said. "That wasn't the main issue. The main issue right now is that we need to make the playoffs."

The aforementioned trio combined to shoot 23-of-38 from the floor while Carter and Jefferson combined to make 9-of-11 from beyond the arc.

Those performances enabled the Nets (30-41) to move within one-game of the eighth-place Atlanta Hawks for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

"We weren't really thinking about a sweep," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "We're at this point - regardless of who we play - we need to win as many games as possible. That's game one of 12."

New Jersey beat Atlanta last Wednesday at home and won that season series but the Nets dropped the season series to the Knicks for the first time since 1999-2000. They were able to beat the Knicks for the first time in four meetings this season and also managed to avoid their first four-game sweep in the series since the 1994-95 season.

"For us, it's not about the Knicks," Jefferson said. "It's about us as a team and how we're going to play. This year, they've won a couple of games and people not necessarily want to make a big deal about it, but we've never really determined ourselves or our season by the way we've played against the Knicks.

"They were able to get some wins against us for the first time in a while and people have put a little focus on that. But for us, it's not about the Knicks, not about any individual team or a rivalry. It's about trying to get the most wins and help ourselves to the playoffs."

Unlike the previous meetings in which the Nets blew two double-digit leads on their home court, this one was really never in doubt.

The Nets led by as many as 15 in the first half behind 21 points from Jefferson before taking a 56-45 edge at halftime.

Carter scored 14 points and Krstic scored eight in a row during a 16-4 burst which turned a 13-point lead into a 25-point bulge en route to an 83-62 advantage heading into the fourth.

"They had a great shooting night," Knicks guard Jamal Crawford said. "We've matched up against them well in the past. We won three out of three coming into tonight.

"I think Krstic really helps them as far as spreading the floor because you devote so much of your attention to Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter and, when he's hitting shots like that, it's tough to recover."

The Knicks got within 12 midway through the fourth, but Bostjan Nachbar buried a clutch 3-pointer with 6:09 remaining and the outcome was never in doubt thereafter.

Crawford had 26 points and eight assists and Zach Randolph chipped in 17 points for the Knicks. He also shot 8-of-22 while the Knicks shot under 40 percent (37-of-93) and lost for the 12th time in 13 games.

The Knicks also tied a franchise mark set in 1963 with their seventh straight home loss, and the latest defeat dropped Isiah Thomas' record as coach of the team to 52-100.

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