NBA.com Daily Confidential

The New Jersey Nets have alternated wins and losses to start the season, but they recently have been showing improvements on both ends of the court.

The Nets look to win consecutive games for the first time this season Friday when they visit the Indiana Pacers in a rematch of last season's Eastern Conference first-round playoff series at Conseco Fieldhouse.

New Jersey (4-3) has been without Richard Jefferson for the last three games, but has managed to get solid performances from Jason Kidd, Vince Carter and Nenad Krstic in his absence.

Kidd scored a season-high 25 points and added 11 assists and eight rebounds to lead the Nets to a 100-87 victory Wednesday over Milwaukee. He hit six of his first seven shots and scored 11 straight points in a 21-3 first-quarter spurt that gave New Jersey the lead for good.

``Jason understands the game. He understands with R.J. out, he has to step it up,'' said Carter, who battled flu-like symptoms and finished with a season-low 15 points. ``From the jump ball it was his show. He was a man possessed tonight. It was great to see.''

New Jersey made 37-of-67 (55.2 percent) shots against Milwaukee, and is shooting 51.3 percent over its last three games while holding its opponents to 41.4 percent in those contests.

Krstic has also been stepping up for the Nets, who are again expected to be without Jefferson, who has a sprained ankle. He added 22 points Wednesday, and has scored more than 20 points in a career-high three straight games.

The center from Serbia and Montenegro is 28-for-45 (62.2 percent) from the floor in that span, and also averaged 18 points while shooting 55.1 percent in the playoffs against the Pacers (4-4).

The Nets lost two of three against Indiana last year in the regular season, but won their first-round playoff series against them in six games. New Jersey won the final three games of the series, including Game 4 and the series-clinching Game 6 at Indiana.

Carter, who scored a season-high 38 points Monday against Seattle, also played well against the Pacers last postseason, averaging 29.2 points and shooting 45.8 percent.

Indiana lost to Boston 114-88 on Wednesday after being outscored 67-43 in the second half.

``We just came apart,'' said Al Harrington, who scored 23 points. ``That's something we can't do. It's disheartening like we don't know what's going on.''

The Pacers have lost consecutive games for the first time all season, and have two 26-point losses in their last four games.

``Maybe these pieces don't fit together,'' Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. ``I still think that they can and I still think they do, but you have to bring the commitment, you have to bring unselfishness and you have to bring the passion.''

The Pacers are averaging 88 points in their last four games, shooting just 39.9 percent from the field in that span.

Five-time All-Star Jermaine O'Neal's slump continued Wednesday. The power forward scored just eight points and is averaging 9.7 points while shooting 28.9 percent (13-for-45) in his last three games.

While O'Neal has been struggling, Harrington has played well after getting off to a slow start. The 6-9 center scored just 12 points on 4-of-19 shooting in his first two games, but is averaging 23.8 points and shooting 54.6 percent in his last six.

Harrington averaged 18.3 points in four games against New Jersey last season while playing for Atlanta.


Copyright 2006 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited