New Jersey 101, New York 100

NEW YORK, Jan. 19 (AP)-- What looked like a blowout for New Jersey turned into a thriller.

No matter. Jason Kidd and the Nets almost always beat the Knicks one way or another.

Clifford Robinson tipped in a missed shot with 2.8 seconds remaining, giving New Jersey a 101-100 victory over New York on Friday night in a game the Nets controlled most of the way and almost let get away.

New Jersey led by 12 points with 3:43 left before Stephon Marbury brought the Knicks all the way back. David Lee's follow gave New York a one-point lead with 9.7 seconds left, but the 40-year-old Robinson saved the Nets from an embarrassing loss when he leaped over Eddy Curry to tip in Vince Carter's miss.

Kidd had 23 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, coming out on top in his rivalry with Marbury yet again. Richard Jefferson finished with 21 points as the Nets won their fifth straight at Madison Square Garden.

"For some odd reason we've had a little bit of success here,'' Kidd said. "We wanted to come out and work hard and we got very fortunate that we didn't let this good opportunity go to waste tonight.''

The Nets lead the series 73-72, but it's been one-sided since Kidd arrived for the 2001-02 season. New Jersey is 17-4 against New York in the regular season since then, part of the reason it has won four of the last five division titles.

"It's not about Jason vs. Steph. It's the Nets vs. the opponent,'' Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "The opponent tonight happened to be the Knicks. It's one win. The wins don't carry over. What you did in the past doesn't impact the future and you've got to earn your way every day.''

Carter scored 16 points but shot 7-of-23 for the Nets, who tied a season high with their third straight victory and won for the eighth time in 10 games. New Jersey (19-20) seems over its slow start and once again is in sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division.

Quentin Richardson scored 24 points for the Knicks and Marbury finished with 23, 10 in the final 3 minutes. But his desperation heave was off, leaving the Knicks with their seventh loss in the last eight meetings.

"The longer we hang around and stay in these types of games, the more we grow up in our back line,'' Knicks coach Isiah Thomas said. "We won't continue to get beat by in the NBA what they call veteran know how. That's what we got beat with tonight, the veteran know how. You've got to give Cliff Robinson credit for that.''

The Knicks hoped to prove they were legitimate threats to their cross-river rivals in the Atlantic Division with a victory Friday, but committed 17 turnovers and missed 11 of their 41 free throws in their second straight heartbreaking loss. They lost to Washington 99-98 on Wednesday on Caron Butler's dunk with 2.2 seconds to play.

"There's been very few games when we haven't been in it at the end,'' Lee said. "Up until the last two we've been doing a tremendous job being on the winning end of games like that. We played two very, very good teams, and we've been about 5 or 6 seconds away from having won two in a row.''

That dropped the Knicks to 17-24 at the midpoint of their season, good enough to be only three games behind the Nets in the division - but the gap looks much larger when they're on the court together.

The Knicks were within three points early in the third quarter before Jefferson's 3-pointer gave the Nets a 61-55 advantage with 9:06 remaining. New York trailed by at least six points for nearly all of the final quarter before Marbury sparked their final flurry.

The Knicks led 27-24 early in the second quarter, but then went more than six minutes without a basket during a 16-2 spurt by the Nets. Jefferson's dunk made it 40-29 with 5:24 left, and the lead grew to 12 on Eddie House's 3-pointer with 3:43 remaining.

New York responded with seven straight points and trailed 54-48 at halftime.

Notes: Friday's game began a tough stretch for the Knicks. They play at Indiana on Saturday night, then face two games against the Heat and another against Phoenix next week. "It's definitely a haymaker that's getting ready to be thrown and we've got to have enough to withstand it,'' Thomas said. "And if we do get to the point where worst-case scenario you go 0-5 in this stretch, you've still got to have enough stamina and intestinal fortitude to continue running your race and get back in it. You can't cave and you can't fall out.''

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