NEW YORK, Dec. 26 (Ticker) -- Vince Carter and the New Jersey Nets are right where many people expected them to be and being unselfish has a lot to do with it.

Carter scored 27 points and the Nets won their season-high sixth straight game, 109-101, over the struggling New York Knicks.

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With their first full season of Carter, Richard Jefferson and Jason Kidd in the lineup, the Nets were considered the preseason favorites to win their fourth division title in five years. However, they began the season with nine losses in their first 21 games, including an embarrassing home defeat to the Charlotte Bobcats on December 14.

During the early struggles, New Jersey averaged 93.6 points and 21.6 assists. But in the last five contests, the Nets are averaging 107.4 points and 28.4 assists.

The improved passing game led to more open shots and, as a result, New Jersey had 27 assists Monday. That allowed the Nets to shoot 54 percent (38-of-70) from the floor - the third time during their winning streak they made at least half their shots.

"We were doing a really good job of moving the ball and making sure that the guy who was open gets the shot," New Jersey reserve forward Clifford Robinson said. "We're going to Vince, we're going to RJ and in turn those guys are making plays."

Robinson scored 11 of his 16 points in the first three quarters when New Jersey had 24 assists and shot 64 percent (35-of-55) to take a 93-75 lead en route to its 16th win in the last 19 regular-season matchups with New York.

"He (Robinson) got three quarters of buckets just by guys being unselfish and making the extra pass," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "By in large, we had 27 assists on 38 field goals because the ball keeps on moving. That's how we want to play."

But the Nets went cold in the fourth as the Knicks were energized by rookie Nate Robinson, who scored a season-high 21 points and hit three 3-pointers during a 16-2 run that reduced New Jersey's lead to 103-96 with 4:48 remaining.

"I think we executed our game plan and we got out to a big lead," said Kidd, who finished with nine points and nine assists. "In the fourth, we just relaxed. But the big thing was that we didn't take care of the ball. We stopped executing and we stopped playing defense. When you do that, you're going to give up some points."

Nate Robinson also sparked a minor tussle during New York's run. With 7:07 remaining in the fourth, he committed a hard foul on Jacque Vaughn. Vaughn shoved Nate Robinson while Jefferson and New York's Quentin Richardson intervened.

After the game both sides downplayed the incident.

"I really didn't even try to foul him," Nate Robinson said. "I just jumped to try to block the shot and contest it and he (Vaughn) took my legs from underneath me."

"I was just protecting my guy," Jefferson said. "That's it, no big deal. He gave a hard foul and I was just coming in there to help Jacque get untangled and that's it."

Although the Knicks cut the deficit to 103-96 with 4:48 to play on a pair of foul shots from Jamal Crawford, the Nets were able to hold on as Carter sealed it with six free throws.

Three nights after tying a career-high with 51 points in Miami, Carter was 6-of-19 from the field. But he made up for his poor shooting by hitting 15-of-17 free throws and handing out eight assists - one shy of his career high.

"I'm going to the basket more," Carter said. "I'm attacking the basket and being aggressive and I'm getting the benefit of some calls."

While Carter led the Nets in scoring, it was Jefferson who had the most efficient game. He scored 23 points on 8-of-8 from the field.

"We're always looking for each other," Jefferson said. "Everybody stepped up tonight."

While the Nets have risen to the top of the Atlantic, it was another rough night for the Knicks.

"We got beat on dribble penetration a lot and that was huge," New York coach Larry Brown said. "They have a bunch of guys that can shoot and pass the ball. When you have Jason, it becomes contagious. Until the fourth quarter we were reacting instead of acting and that really impacted the game."

Stephon Marbury scored 21 points on 8-of-17 shooting. He tied a season low by playing 31 minutes and was on the bench when the Knicks got back in the contest.

"Coach felt like those guys out there were doing the job and they were," Marbury said. "(Nate Robinson) brought a lot of energy. He played well."