New Jersey 101, New York 92

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., Feb. 25 (AP) -- Vince Carter gave the Nets a shot in the arm when they needed it.

Carter scored 40 points, his second outing in the last three in which he scored 40 or more, to lead the Nets to a 101-92 come-from-behind victory over the New York Knicks Sunday night.

The win moved New Jersey (27-30) two games ahead of their rivals in both the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference standings. The Nets are in eighth place, the final playoff spot, in the Eastern Conference with 25 games remaining. It was the Nets' second straight win after losing three straight. The Knicks have alternated wins and losses in their last eight games.

With the Nets trailing 53-44 at halftime, they turned to Carter to make the big plays and get them back in the game. He responded with two long 3-pointers within the first 1:10 of the second half, slicing the lead to 53-50 and putting New Jersey back in control.

"They had the momentum and the flow,'' said Carter, who scored 12 points in the third quarter. "I wanted to set the bar a little higher. I knew we needed a big effort right from the beginning. I told Jason (Kidd) that we couldn't try to get it all back at once, that we just had to keep it close.''

The Nets also got 15 points and 10 rebounds from reserve Bostjan Nachbar, and 11 points and 14 assists from Kidd.

"It was sending a message like, 'I'm here,''' Nets head coach Lawrence Frank said of Carter's 3s. "We feed off Vince and they were big rhythm shots. He's definitely playing at a higher level right now on both ends of the floor. Vince understands his responsibility and sets the tone for everything we do.''

Carter, who had 46 points against the Hornets on Wednesday, added nine rebounds and eight assists against the Knicks.

"Once we got on a roll, we just kept going,'' Carter said. "We're very capable of scoring in bunches.''

Stephon Marbury paced the Knicks with 22 points. Eddy Curry added 18 and Channing Frye 15. The Knicks (25-32) took control of the contest in the early going, thanks to Marbury, who connected for 13 points in the first quarter, giving New York a 28-22 lead after one period.

The Knicks pushed the lead to as many as 11 on two occasions, the final time when Marbury's jumper 2:38 before halftime gave New York a 50-39 lead. The Knicks led 53-44 at halftime. Marbury had 17 points at the half.

But the Nets, led by Carter, came out on fire to start the second half.

After Carter's 3s started the third quarter, the Nets went on a 9-0 run midway through the period, with Nachbar putting in a long-range 3-pointer and capping the burst with a dunk to give New Jersey a 65-60 lead with 7:08 left in the quarter.

Mikki Moore and Nachbar scored eight points apiece in the third quarter, when the Nets outscored the Knicks 33-15 to take a 77-68 lead.

"I've been struggling with my jump shot over the last couple of games,'' Moore said. "But yesterday, I got in 3,000 jump shots, 1,500 before practice and then 1,500 after. The shot felt good tonight and the guys got me the ball in the right areas.''

Frank credited the team's defensive effort in the second half.

"It all started on the defensive end,'' Frank said. "I think we cracked it up a notch. It was a much more determined effort defensively in the second half.''

The Knicks got to 87-84 on a 3-pointer by Jamal Crawford with 6:44 remaining, but the Nets went on an 8-0 run to put the game away. Carter hit two straight jumpers to push the lead to 93-84 with 2:48 left.

He then sealed the win by making five of six free throws in the closing minute.

Frank didn't want to overplay the importance of the game and beating the team behind the Nets in the standings.

"It's not so much us against them,'' he said. "It's more about being in a similar position. We're both at a point where every game is the most important game.''

Notes: Nets starting forward Antoine Wright left the game in the first quarter with a bruised right elbow. ... Kidd became the Nets' career leader in 3s. His first 3-pointer of the game was the 688th 3-pointer he has made with the Nets, one better than Kerry Kittles, who played seven seasons with the team and currently serves the team as a volunteer consultant. ... The Nets entered Sunday night having defeated the Knicks 17 of the last 21 meetings, since Kidd joined the team for the 2001-02 season. ... The game was played before a crowd of 20,032, the Nets' second sellout of the season.

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