Strong Fourth Quarter Lifts Nets Past Wizards
New Jersey 112, Washington 100
WASHINGTON, March 21 (Ticker) -- Richard Jefferson led an impressive fourth-quarter charge that kept the New Jersey Nets streaking toward another division title.
Jefferson was 4-of-4 from the floor as he scored eight of his 27 points in the final period, helping the Nets turn a tight contest into a 112-100 triumph over the Washington Wizards.
"It's always fun when you're winning, but the biggest thing that makes it fun is guys are just going out there and playing hard and doing what's asked of us," said Vince Carter, who led the Nets with 28 points. "It's just the effort. Guys are dedicating themselves to these last 20-plus games and we're getting results."
Tuesday's game featured 14 ties and 10 lead changes, the last coming on a three-point play by Carter with 12 seconds left in the third period to give New Jersey a 71-70 advantage.
The Nets pulled away in the early portion of the fourth quarter by making 10 of their first 11 shots en route to an overall 56 percent (43-of-77) performance.
"I think we scored our first seven possessions of that fourth quarter," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "The game obviously was going back and forth, but that kind of gave us some separation. When you make shots, obviously, life's a little bit easier."
New Jersey used 23-10 charge, capped by Jefferson's 3-pointer with 4:18 remaining, to open a 99-85 advantage and never was threatened thereafter.
"I got going in the second half and just tried to keep playing through my teammates," said Jefferson, who made 11-of-15 shots. "They found me on some good looks and our whole team had it going in that second half.
"The ball was moving, to tell you the truth. It was drive, drive, pass, pass and then somebody had an open shot and we just knocked them down. We defended and got some stops, which allowed us to get some separation."
The Nets got significant contributions from their bench as Clifford Robinson and Zoran Planinic scored eights points apiece and Lamond Murray added six.
"Our bench, hey, look, in six straight games they've been very, very good," Frank said. "The contributions those guys are making on both ends has obviously been very, very big."
"The big thing for us is to have guys come off the bench and give the starters a break," said Nets guard Jason Kidd, who had 14 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. "That just makes us a more dangerous team when you can have Zoran and Cliff come off the bench and expand the lead."
Caron Butler and Gilbert Arenas scored 25 points apiece for the Wizards. While Butler made 12-of-19 shots, Arenas sank just 6-of-17.
Washington (34-32) remained one-half game ahead of Indiana (33-32) for fifth place in the Eastern Conference. It completed a 1-2 homestand and plays 12 of its last 16 games on the road.
"This (six-game) road trip is more important than anything," Arenas said. "We have to come out strong. If we can come out strong, we will finish strong."
"I think the character of this team has already been revealed," Butler said. "In the face of adversity, early on when a lot of people were writing us off, I think we bounced back. This is another challenge and we have to step up."