New Jersey 112, Denver 102 (F)

DENVER, Jan. 27 (AP)-- Vince Carter and the New Jersey Nets weren't about to lose another heartbreaker at the buzzer.

Carter scored half of his 40 points in the fourth quarter Saturday night as the Nets pulled away from the Denver Nuggets and snapped a three-game losing streak with a 112-102 victory.

All three losses had come by a point, tying an NBA record.

"I took those games personally,'' Carter said. "I had to put those games behind me and give the best effort the next one. You have to try not to let those games affect the game. I thought we did that and were able to focus in and lock in what needed to be done for 48 minutes instead of anything less than 48 minutes.''

Carter felt guilty for the Nets' last loss, when he left Cuttino Mobley wide open for a 3-pointer with 0.6 seconds left that gave the Clippers a 102-101 win Thursday night.

"It was imperative for us to get a win by any means,'' Carter said. "I felt I let the team down in the last game on that last play. So I wanted to have the maximum effort from beginning to end.''

That, he did.

He made five field goals and 10 free throws in the fourth quarter.

"He just dominated us,'' Allen Iverson said. "Dominated us throughout the game. Kept the pressure on us. He got fouled, went to the free throw line and made them when he had to. He just played well.''

And the Nuggets, deflated from a loss at Utah 24 hours earlier, didn't.

"There's no question that all the energy areas of the game of basketball, we didn't have any tonight,'' Nuggets coach George Karl said. "Steals and deflections and offensive rebounding. We just were kind of out of gas.''

Carter finished 14-of-23 from the floor and 12-of-14 from the stripe. Bostjan Nachbar added a career-best 22 points and Jason Kidd had 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Nets, who never even trailed in the fourth quarter this time.

Carmelo Anthony had his worst game since returning from a 15-game suspension last week, scoring 23 points on 5-of-14 shooting. Iverson wasn't on top of his game, either, going 6-of-19 for 18 points.

Both were more concerned with their dismal defense than their lost shooting touch.

"You might not be able to play offense every night, but you sure play defense every single night,'' Iverson said. "We didn't get it done tonight.''

Both stars have said meshing in the same lineup will rest more on the defensive end.

"Scoring is not a problem. Anybody on our team can score,'' Anthony said. "We've just got to buckle down defensively. If we want to be the team that we say we want to be, then that's where we're going to win games.''

Iverson refused to pin the blame on physical and emotional fatigue from the Nuggets' loss at Utah 24 hours earlier.

"That had nothing to do with it,'' he said. "They were better than us tonight. We've got to get better on the defensive end.''

And it's a simple task, he insisted.

"Just work at it. Become better. Make it a priority,'' Iverson said. "Just try to get better at it. Defense is something you've got to want to do. I think we can get it straight.''

J.R. Smith led the Nuggets with 28 points off the bench. His dunk at the buzzer brought the Nuggets to 80-76 heading into the final 12 minutes, and Nene's dunk made it 80-78, but the Nets pulled away after that.

"Every night we play good defense,'' Karl said. "But it's not consistent and the commitment's got to be. And most of that's got to come from the studs, from Marcus (Camby) and A.I. and Melo and everybody that starts the game. Their commitment has got to be into not outrunning, outshooting people, but to put defense as a part of our personality.''

Nets coach Lawrence Frank insisted the Nets weren't hanging their heads over their trio of heartbreakers to begin their five-game, 10-day Western trip.

"There was no monkey. We had been playing good basketball,'' he said. "You can't fall victim to circumstances. So you lose three games at the buzzer. Today was a new day and we came in expecting to win the game. You can't carry baggage around.''

Carter certainly didn't.

Notes: The Nuggets honored Iverson before the game for becoming the 30th player in NBA history to score 20,000 points earlier in the week. ... Nachbar's previous career high was 21 points. ... New Jersey is 1-8 on the road against the Western Conference.


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