Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images
Vince Carter recorded 13 of his 19 points in the third quarter.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., March 31 (AP) -- A foul-plagued Vince Carter found that the best remedy to help a sore right knee and the New Jersey Nets' playoff hopes was playing instead of sitting.
Carter scored 13 of his 19 points in the third quarter and the Nets posted one of their best defensive games of the season with an 86-82 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night.
"I didn't do too much in the first half,'' said Carter after being limited to 7:34 by three early fouls. "I wanted to put my mark on the game and stay out of foul trouble to give us a lift.''
First Carter had to take care of his knee, which he tweaked on Friday night in a loss to Detroit.
"I was trying to get some blood flowing through there to get rid of some of the stiffness,'' Carter said. "I felt a step slow. Once the second half started and we were down, I just went out and played. Once I played I felt fine.''
Carter made up for lost time, hitting 5-of-9 shots from the field in the quarter and scoring nine straight points in giving New Jersey its first lead since the opening minutes at 51-49.
Without Carter, the Nets did little in the first half, hitting 13 of 33 shots and scoring only 34 points.
"It was extremely ugly in the first half,'' said Richard Jefferson, who had 14 points for New Jersey. "We were playing good defense but our offense was awful.''
The 76ers helped keep the Nets in the game. While they led 39-34, they also missed seven of 10 free throws.
New Jersey took the lead for good on a three-point play by Mikki Moore in the third quarter and led by 14 in the fourth in winning for the third time in four games and moving into a tie with Orlando for the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
"We are playing more consistent basketball right now,'' Jefferson said. "We still have to get to that level where we can beat good teams like Detroit.''
Jason Kidd had 12 points and eight assists as the Nets pushed the 76ers five games behind in the race for the final playoff spot. Philadelphia has nine games left.
Veteran Clifford Robinson scored nine of his 11 points in the fourth quarter as Lawrence Frank won his 150th game, tops among all Nets coaches.
Andre Miller and Joe Smith had 14 points apiece for the 76ers, who finished 11 of 22 from the free-throw line. Andre Iguodala finished with 13 points after spending most of the second half in foul trouble.
"I just couldn't hit any shots and couldn't get anything going,'' said Iguodala, who was 5-of-12 from the field in 33 minutes. "I was in foul trouble. They just played a good game.''
New Jersey took a 61-57 lead into the fourth quarter and the closest the 76ers got was on a layup by Miller in the opening seconds.
Jefferson then hit two straight baskets and Kidd made a 3-pointer in a 9-2 spurt that pushed the Nets' lead to 72-62 with 7:12 to go. New Jersey eventually increased the lead to 77-63 on two free throws by Jefferson with 5:46 to go.
Philadelphia scored the final nine points to make the game close with Kyle Korver hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer. It capped a 4-for-14 shooting night for the shooting guard and he sarcastically pumped his fist after making the shot.
Notes: Philadelphia center Samuel Dalembert had 12 points and 10 rebounds. ...Antoine Wright had 12 points off the bench for New Jersey. ....The teams split the season series 2-2. ...Korver's 3-pointer at the end was the only 3-pointer the 76ers made on six attempts. ...Kidd also had five steals on a night he was 4-of-13 from the field. ...The fewest points the Nets have allowed in a game this season was 78. In losing to Detroit on Friday night, New Jersey allowed 39 points in the fourth quarter.