Carter Leads Nets to Seventh Straight Win
New Jersey 86, Minnesota 82
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., March 23 (Ticker) -- Even though it was Jason Kidd's birthday, All-Star Vince Carter took over as the floor general in the late stages.
Carter and Richard Jefferson scored 21 points apiece and Kidd added 17 as the New Jersey Nets recovered from a slow start to push their winning streak to seven games with a 86-82 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
"We had no energy in the first half," Kidd said. "We were flat and there was no emotion, no rhythm."
New Jersey trailed by as many as 16 in the second quarter but pulled within 50-40 when Vince Carter drilled a 30-footer as time expired in a dismal first half.
"It was a momentum builder," Carter said. "The way we were playing, we were having trouble figuring things out. But after that shot, we started feeling better about ourselves."
Carter's shot seemed to jump-start the Nets, who opened the third quarter with 11 straight points. They took their first lead since the first quarter when Kidd made a behind-the-back pass to Jefferson for a fast-break dunk with 7:33 left.
Minnesota was held scoreless in the second half until Marcus Banks made a layup at 7:21 and managed just 32 points on 24 percent (9-of-37) shooting in the final 24 minutes.
"In the second half, we were a totally different team," Kidd said. "We found some energy on defense and that helped us win the game."
"Anytime you have a playoff team on the ropes and (lose), it's disappointing," Minnesota coach Dwane Casey said. "We came out in the second half and started settling for jump shots and you can't do that against a team like New Jersey."
With 2:13 to go, Carter found Cliff Robinson for a 3-pointer that gave New Jersey a 78-75 lead, then traded a pair of free throws with Marcus Banks.
Kidd and Jefferson failed to connect on an alley-oop, leading to two more free throws for Banks that made it 80-79 with 1:02 to play. But Carter drove the lane and dished to Robinson for another shot from the arc nine seconds later.
"He's been doing it for us all season," Kidd said. "(Robinson) puts himself in position to make shots. He's been doing it for 17 years."
Banks had a layup with 41 ticks to halve the margin, but Carter tracked down his own miss, leading to two free throws by Jefferson for an 85-81 lead with just 18 seconds remaining. New Jersey held on and dealt Minnesota its ninth consecutive road loss.
Carter collected seven rebounds, seven assists and three blocks. Kidd handed out nine assists and Nenad Krstic had 13 points and tied a season high with 13 boards as the Nets (39-28) moved seven games ahead of second-place Philadelphia in the Atlantic Division.
Garnett finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds and Banks and Mark Blount added 18 points apiece for the Wolves, who lost for the eighth time in 10 games overall.
Minnesota (28-40) is 13th in the Western Conference, falling six games behind Sacramento for the eighth and final playoff spot.
"It doesn't look good, but we're going to keep fighting," Banks said. "Anything can happen."
"We always want to have hope," Casey said. "Mathematically, we're still alive, so we're still playing for something."