EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.(AP) One of these days, T.J. Ford is going to get his first NBA triple-double.
For now, the Indiana Pacers point guard is settling for near-misses, and wins.
Ford had 18 points, nine assists and eight rebounds, and the banged-up Pacers won their third straight game with a 98-87 victory over the New Jersey Nets on Wednesday night.
Ford seemed stunned that he was one assist and two rebounds shy of a triple-double. He was three rebounds shy of one at home against Oklahoma City on Monday, and he was a rebound and two assists shy against New Jersey on Saturday.
"I got to get on Coach and tell him to talk to the guy to pad the stats for me a little bit,'' Ford said.
Forward Jeff Foster said Ford has made a big difference since being acquired in a trade with Toronto in July.
"He has shown what we have been missing the last couple of years,'' said Foster, who added 16 points along with Marquis Daniels as the Pacers beat the Nets for the second time in three games. "He gets in the lane and causes havoc for other teams and he's guarding guys really well, too, slowing down their offense and giving them less time for shots. He has been huge for us.''
Vince Carter scored 28 points and Jarvis Hayes added 15 for the Nets, who lost their third straight game with point guard Devin Harris sidelined with a sprained ankle. New Jersey turned the ball over 18 times, leading to 25 points for Indiana.
"It's been difficult, but hopefully we can speed up the process and get everyone on one page quicker,'' Hayes said of the Nets' struggles with a young team. "It is what it is now. But we will get better.''
The Pacers played without injured starters Mike Dunleavy (knee), Troy Murphy (flu) and Danny Granger (quad), but only trailed once in the early minutes. Dunleavy has missed every game this season.
Granger got a spasm in his quad during the morning shootaround. He tried to warm up before the game but could not go.
Pacers coach Jim O'Brien downplayed the injuries.
"It's an insult to the guys that have uniforms on to worry about guys that don't have uniforms on,'' O'Brien said. "Everybody has to step up. You lose games and people don't care who's out. They don't care. We don't worry about that. We just play with what we have.''
Indiana took control in the second quarter with an 18-5 run that featured seven points by Ford and six by Jarrett Jack, who finished with 11.
"With Danny being out, I was just trying to definitely be a little more aggressive in the first half,'' Ford said. "In the second half I got back to playing the point guard role, driving and kicking. Other guys stepped up and made plays. If you look at the scoring, it came from all over the place.''
Indiana had six players in double figures and got points from nine players overall.
The Pacers led by seven points at halftime, upped the margin to 10 after three quarters and increased it to 72-59 in the opening minutes of the fourth when Travis Diener hit a 3-pointer, his only basket.
New Jersey went on a 12-4 spurt to draw within 76-71 on a fast-break slam by Sean Williams.
After a timeout, Ford set up Jack for a 3-pointer from the right wing, and Daniels slammed home a layup off a nice feed from Josh McRoberts to extend the lead to 81-71 with 6:50 to go.
"They were able to make a run and we were able to withstand it and continue to play our style and it worked in our favor,'' Ford said.
The Nets never threatened again.
Notes: Nets C Josh Boone twisted an ankle in the second quarter but quickly returned to the game. ... The Pacers got three technical fouls for illegal defenses. ... Carter was hit in the face by teammate Williams in the fourth quarter while reaching for a rebound. ... Ford had three of the Pacers' 15 steals. ... Indiana had 12 turnovers, leading to six Nets' points.