CHARLOTTE, N.C., Jan. 5 (Ticker) --
Rookies Jason Collins
and Richard Jefferson
combined for 34 points in place of the missing Keith Van Horn
and Kenyon Martin
as the New Jersey Nets defeated the Charlotte Hornets, 89-80.
Martin served the first of a two-game suspension for throwing a punch at Orlando's Tracy McGrady on Friday. Van Horn missed the game with a stomach virus. But Collins scored a season-high 18 points and pulled down 12 rebounds and Jefferson added 16 points, one shy of his season high.
"I've been preparing to do this all my life," Collins said. "I've been working hard in practice and I've been proud to have the opportunity to come in here and do this. We've got a lot of depth on this team and it showed tonight."
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"I just felt comfortable and was able to get in a rhythm tonight," Jefferson said. "When I'm able to get a couple of easy baskets like free throws or layups, it gets me comfortable offensively."
Six Nets reached double figures as they snapped a six-game skid in Charlotte. Jason Kidd tallied 18 points with eight assists. Reserves Lucious Harris chipped in 13 and Aaron Williams 12 and
"We've always told the young guys you have to be ready because you never know when you're going to have to step in at a moment's notice," Kidd said. "The kind of team that we have, we
can just plug in different players. We are very unselfish. We don't care who's the leading scorer."
After Elden Campbell hit 1-of-2 free throws to give Charlotte a 45-38 lead with 10 minutes left in the third quarter, New Jersey countered with a 29-11 run through the end of the period.
The Nets took the lead for good at 49-47 on a tip-in by Collins with 6:26 left. Collins closed the third-quarter scoring with a layup with 21 seconds to go to make it 67-56 entering the final
New Jersey led by as much as 77-61 on a jumper by Harris with 7:22 left and Charlotte got no closer than 85-78 on a 3-pointer by Davis with 49 seconds to go.
"The rookies stepped up and played very well tonight," New Jersey coach Byron Scott said. "Jefferson and Collins were terrific. We faced an adverse situation tonight, missing Keith and Kenyon. But I had confidence in these guys and the players we have. I knew they would play well."
Charlotte, which lost to New Jersey at home for the first time since January 13, 1998, was paced by Campbell's 26 points and 13 rebounds. Baron Davis added 22 points and seven assists and Robert Traylor recorded 12 and 10 rebounds.
"You can't make excuses," Campbell said. "Injuries are not an excuse in the league. People have to step in and play well. Traylor did a good job. We'll get back tomorrow and get back to work for the next game."
The Hornets shot only 36 percent (26-of-72), while the Nets converted 42 percent (32-of-76).
Harris concluded a 10-0 run with a three-point play to give New Jersey a 28-19 lead with 8:56 left in the second quarter. But Davis scored the next seven points to spark a 21-5 run to end the half.
"I thought we played a good first half, and we did not play a good second half, and that was the story," Charlotte coach Paul Silas said. "In the third quarter they really ran on us. They did whatever they wanted to, basically. We did not rebound the ball well, nor could we score for whatever reason. That was kind of the story."