<
>

Division title is third straight for Nets

4/2/2004

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- The New Jersey Nets wrapped up the
Atlantic Division title -- and shut up the New York Knicks.

Lucious Harris matched his season high with 24 points to help
the Nets win their third straight division title with a 108-83
victory over the Knicks on Friday night.

The Knicks fired up the Nets with comments that they wouldn't
mind facing New Jersey -- missing injured Jason Kidd and Kenyon
Martin -- in the opening round of the playoffs.

Richard Jefferson, who had 18 points for New Jersey, took the
Knicks' remarks to heart.

"He reads the papers a lot," Harris said. "They were talking
a lot of trash. Tonight we went out there and got our game right.
Richard has been the key to this team since Jason and Kenyon have
been out."

Possible playoff opponents have tagged the Nets, 2-5 with both
Kidd and Martin sidelined, as vulnerable prey without their stars
in the lineup.

"We've had some injuries and we've had some other things go
on," Jefferson said. "Teams are still talking bad about us. It
doesn't matter to us. We understand that you have to prove things
on the court."

The Nets showed the Knicks that they would not be an easy
opening-round pushover.

A showdown between the rivals looks possible. The Nets are the
second seed in the Eastern Conference, and the Knicks are tied with
Boston for seventh place.

The Nets showed the Knicks no mercy. New Jersey never trailed
and shot a season-high 60 percent from the field.

"We came over here and we didn't have the intensity that we
needed," said Penny Hardaway, who had 14 points for New York.
"They beat us up pretty bad."

Stephon Marbury also had 14 points for the Knicks.

Rodney Rogers added 20 points, and rookie Zoran Planinic had a
career-high 11 for the Nets, who clinched the division title when
Detroit beat Miami.

Game notes
The Knicks placed guard Allan Houston on the injured list
because of a bruised quadriceps, and activated guard Frank
Williams. Houston, averaging 18.5 points in 50 games this season,
has missed seven of the Knicks' last eight games, playing just
eight minutes a week ago against Toronto. ... Martin went back to
the sideline with tendinitis in left knee after playing only 12
minutes Wednesday night in the Nets' 103-99 overtime win over
Washington. Kidd remains out with a knee injury. ... Former Net
Marbury played his first game in New Jersey in a Knicks uniform.
... The Nets' Aaron Williams hit his first career 3-pointer early
in the fourth quarter.