A difficult month has the New Jersey Nets in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in six years.

Holding onto the Eastern Conference's last playoff spot, the Nets hope to get on track Saturday when they host the Philadelphia 76ers.

New Jersey (33-39) started March with five straight defeats, but bounced back to win five of its next eight contests, including two straight heading into Friday night's road game against Detroit.

The Nets, though, allowed 65 second-half points, including 39 in the fourth quarter, and fell 110-105 to the Pistons. The loss, combined with Orlando's victory over Indiana, dropped New Jersey a half-game behind the seventh-place Magic.

"We've got 10 games to go," said New Jersey coach Lawrence Frank, whose team leads the Pacers and the New York Knicks by two games in the East. "We're scoring enough points. If we can find a way to get some stops, we'll be OK, but that's been an issue all season."

Vince Carter had 27 points against the Pistons, despite leaving the game for several minutes in the first half after suffering a right knee injury.

Carter drove to the basket and missed a short shot. He landed on his left leg and took a couple steps without apparent pain, but crumpled to the court after turning to run back upcourt.

Carter was helped off by teammates, then went back to the New Jersey locker room at the end of the quarter. He returned midway through the second with a slight limp, and said he didn't believe the injury would cause him to miss this game.

"I'm not sure what happened," he said. "I guess I banged knees with someone. If I can walk, I'll play."

Carter averages a team-high 24.9 points for the Nets, who play five of their last 10 games against teams ahead of them in the standings, including a three-game stretch against the Knicks and Pacers from April 13-16.

New Jersey has lost two of three meetings against the Sixers (29-43) this season, with both losses coming on the road.

Philadelphia is coming off an 88-82 win over Boston on Friday, its third in the last four games. Kyle Korver led the Sixers with 26 points, while Andre Iguodala added 23 points and 12 assists.

After holding Boston to just 3-of-16 shooting in the second quarter, Philadelphia took a 44-31 lead into the break. The Sixers never trailed in the second half, although they allowed the Celtics to tie the game with 7:19 left and led by just one with 4:39 remaining.

"We didn't play well at all," Iguodala said. "We'll take the win out of it, but that's about it."

The victory improved the Sixers to 9-5 in March, their first winning month since going 8-7 in January 2006. The last time they won nine games in a month was March 2005.

The Sixers are in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, four games behind the Nets.

Philadelphia has won five of the last seven meetings between these teams after losing six of the previous seven.


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