Carter, Nets Fly Past Clippers
New Jersey 99, L.A. Clippers 85
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., Dec. 20 (Ticker) -- Vince Carter has raised his level of play and lifted the New Jersey Nets to their best stretch of the season.
Carter scored 35 points as part of a spectacular all-around game as the Nets won their season-high third straight game, a 99-85 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.
At the center of that was Carter, the superstar swingman who was laughing with a teammate in the locker room after a 20-point loss to Washington in which he scored just 14 points. However, he has been the driving force in the team's turnaround.
"The way we've been playing as a team lately, my motivation it so come out and jump-start our team and make something happen," he said. "It's worked for us so far."
"When we have the intensity that Vince has had in the last week or so, it means a lot," Nets point guard Jason Kidd said.
After collecting 34 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists in Friday's overtime win over Denver, Carter scored 25 points in Sunday's rout of Golden State. On Tuesday, he was virtually unstoppable, making 11-of-22 shots and 12-of-14 free throws.
"I was just trying to take what the defense gave me and mix it up a little bit," Carter said. "If (the defender) was playing up on me, just trying to make him pay and go to the basket and get to the line."
Carter did more than score, handing out a season-high nine assists and pulling down seven rebounds. He was in the middle of nearly every surge by the Nets, who took the lead for good late in the first quarter.
"We've been struggling, so it's been my intention to be aggressive early and get us going, whether it's scoring or getting shots for the other guys," he said.
The six-time All-Star scored 20 points in the first half, including a jumper to start a 10-2 surge that gave New Jersey a 57-42 lead late in the second quarter. He scored the first six points of a 10-3 burst in the third period that gave the Nets their largest lead at 74-56 with 4:33 left.
The Clippers closed to 80-71 entering the final period but got no closer than eight points thanks to Carter, who opened the quarter with a jumper, had a basket to keep the lead at 86-75 with 7:34 remaining and another jumper to make it 92-80 with 3:19 to go.
Kidd also had nine assists with eight points and seven rebounds for the Nets, who allowed 90 points or less in back-to-back wins for the first time this season.
The Clippers entered the game with best field-goal defense in the NBA and were allowing less than 10 fast-break points per game. But the Nets shot 51 percent (36-of-70) and scored 29 points on the fast break.
"I don't know if we lead the league anymore," Los Angeles forward Elton Brand said. "They just got out and ran and got easy points. (Carter) was a tough matchup for us. He was aggressive and hitting his shots."
Los Angeles especially struggled to contain Carter without athletic swingman Corey Maggette, who was inactive with a sprained left foot.
"We're hurting all around, offensively and defensively," Brand said. "We're looking forward to getting him back."
Brand had 21 points and 13 rebounds but did not score in the fourth quarter. Cuttino Mobley scored 15 points but Sam Cassell finished with 10 on 4-of-15 shooting for the Clippers, who have lost four of their last five games.
"We didn't come out with the aggressiveness we need to be successful," Cassell said. "We need to win the hustle game and we didn't. When you see who wins the hustle game, you don't need to look at the box score."
Los Angeles has lost four straight road games and dropped its last seven visits dating back to January 15, 1998.