Daily Confidential

The New Jersey Nets look to become the first team to reach .500 in the Atlantic Division in two months and continue their strong play as they host the struggling Orlando Magic on Saturday.

The Nets (19-20) were the most recent team of the less-than-stellar Atlantic to have a .500 record, dropping to 5-5 following a 99-87 defeat to the Seattle SuperSonics on Nov. 20. Boston has yet to reach .500 this season, New York's last taste of the break-even mark came Nov. 3 with a 1-1 record, Toronto was 2-2 on Nov. 10 and Philadelphia 4-4 on Nov. 17.

The setback to Seattle was part of a six-game losing streak that left New Jersey scrambling for a chance to get back to .500. That opportunity finally has come for the Nets, who have won three straight - matching a season high - and eight of their last 10 overall after Friday's 101-100 victory at New York.

Clifford Robinson's tip-in with 2.8 seconds to play lifted the Nets, who squandered a 12-point lead in the final 3:43 before the 40-year-old forward made his crucial follow shot.

Jason Kidd had 23 points, nine assists and seven rebounds for the Nets, who shot 50.0 percent from the field and overcame a dismal shooting performance from Vince Carter, who was just 7-for-23 overall and 0-for-6 from 3-point range. Richard Jefferson had 21 points while Robinson finished with 11 off the bench.

"For some odd reason we've had a little bit of success here,'' said Kidd, who is 17-4 versus the Knicks since joining the Nets in 2001. "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.''

New Jersey's rise has coincided with Kidd's improved play. He's put aside the personal distractions of his impending divorce to average 18.0 points, 8.8 assists and 8.4 rebounds in the last 10 games.

The veteran point guard is shooting 50.0 percent from the field and 46.0 percent (23-for-50) from 3-point range in that span.

Kidd has averaged 15.2 points, 9.5 assists and 7.5 rebounds in 31 lifetime games against the Magic and has four triple-doubles against them.

Orlando (22-18) has matched a season high with four straight losses, a skid that has dropped the Magic 1 1/2 games behind Washington in the Southeast Division. After losing the final three games of their four-game road trip, the Magic were listless in their return home and routed 114-93 by the Wizards on Friday.

"I think we should be embarrassed by the way we played in the second half,'' said Magic coach Brian Hill, whose team was outscored 69-48 in the second half. "I think we were totally outworked and outhustled in every aspect of the game, every player on the floor.''

The Magic again hurt themselves by not protecting the ball, committing 19 turnovers that led to 29 points for the Wizards. Orlando leads the league in turnovers at 17.2 per game.

Center Dwight Howard had 20 points and 13 rebounds for his second straight double-double and 32nd of the season. He averaged 16.7 points and 11.7 rebounds in three games against the New Jersey last season.

The Nets won all three games from Orlando last season as Kidd averaged 17.7 points, 10.0 assists and 8.0 rebounds and notched a triple-double in a 113-106 victory Jan. 6, 2006.

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