New Jersey 124, Indiana 117

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., March 26 (AP) - Lawrence Frank enjoys watching the New Jersey Nets run up and down the court and win games with triple-digit scores as much as anyone.

Getting to the playoffs is going to take a little defense, and the Nets continue to search for that, even in victory.

Devin Harris had 22 points and a career-best 15 assists and the Nets kept pace with Atlanta for the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference with a 124-117 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night. Atlanta beat Milwaukee 115-96 earlier in the night.

"Especially on the road, defensively, we have to be a whole lot sharper because you don't have that comfort at home,'' Frank said after New Jersey (31-41) remained a half-game behind the Hawks (31-40). "These games are going to be highly contested and each game is going to be a fight.''

There's no doubt the Nets' next one will be tough. They face the Pacers (29-43) again in Indianapolis on Friday.

"We definitely do need to play better defense,'' said Josh Boone, who added a career-high 26 points. "We're scoring 120 points at home. We're just outscoring teams. That's not going to get us into the playoffs, since we have a lot of road games left.''

Indiana now trails the Hawks by 2 1/2 games after losing their second straight.

"It's been a disappointing season for us, but with 10 games to go we have a chance to salvage it and make the playoffs,'' Pacers center Jeff Foster said.

Besides Harris and Boone, the Nets got big performances from Vince Carter (22 points, season-high 14 rebounds) and Richard Jefferson (20 points) in the game that featured 27 3-pointers and seemingly as many uncontested layups.

Mike Dunleavy had 33 points, seven assists and six rebounds to lead the Pacers, while Danny Granger added 19 points before fouling out.

The Nets blew a 16-point first-half lead and needed a 21-11 spurt to end the third quarter to take the lead for good after Indiana rallied to tie it at 77 on two free throws by Granger.

Carter, limited to six points in the first half, then took over. He hit a floater in the lane to ignite the run and later added a 3-pointer, two free throws and a jumper.

Bostjan Nachbar, who added 18 points off the bench, hit two more 3-pointers in the run that ended with Marcus Williams banking in a 3-pointer at the buzzer for a 98-88 lead.

"Once we came back, we started taking some poor shots and shot ourselves in the foot again,'' Dunleavy said.

Indiana, which stayed in it despite allowing the Nets to score a season-high 42 first-quarter points, got to within 113-109 when Granger converted a four-point play after nailing one of the Pacers' 14 3-pointers.

However, Carter nailed a 3-pointer, Harris added a jumper and Nachbar hit his fourth 3-pointer to give the Nets a 121-111 lead in the closing minutes.

"We're a lot more confident at home,'' Harris said. "We answered runs tonight. On the road, we don't do so good. We tend to falter.''

Trailing 68-52 late in the first half, Indiana got back in it with a 14-point run that bridged the end of the first half and the start of the third quarter.

Notes: Indiana starting F Troy Murphy missed the game because of strep throat. ... Carter's career best for rebounds is 15. ... Boone hit all nine of his shots and scored 21 points in the first half. ... The Nets' 68 first-half points tied a season high. ... The Pacers shot better from 3-point range (46.7 percent on 14-of-30 shooting) than from 2-point range (46.1 on 41-of-89).

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