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Carter scores 18 of his 30 in the third period

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The New Jersey Nets don't consider themselves
short-handed when four of the hands belong to Vince Carter and
Jason Kidd.

Carter scored 18 of his 30 points in the third quarter, Kidd had
15 points and 11 assists, and the gritty Nets beat the Los Angeles
Lakers 109-103 Friday night despite dressing only eight players.

"It's one thing when you're undermanned and you have nothing to
lose, but we felt that we could compete with them -- it was just a
matter of how long," said Carter, who had a season-high nine
assists for the second consecutive game and a 360-degree finger
roll late in the third.

"We knew they were going to outrebound us, so we just wanted to
be close in the last five minutes of the game. And if we could give
ourselves a chance at the end, anything can happen," he said.

The Lakers, coming off losses to Seattle and the Clippers, have
dropped three straight for the first time since Jan. 19-22, 2004.
Los Angeles is 3-4 since Kobe Bryant sprained his right ankle on
Jan. 13 in a victory over Cleveland.

Caron Butler had a season-high 31 points and 10 rebounds, and
Chucky Atkins added 22 points for the Lakers, who have allowed 100
or more points in six of their last seven games. Lamar Odom had 16
points, 13 rebounds and eight assists.

"We have to become better defensively if we are going to win
games," Odom said. "You cannot let a team that is struggling
score 109 points."

Lakers 7-foot center Chris Mihm, wearing a wrap on his right leg
because of a bruised calf, couldn't prevent Carter from taking it
to the basket time and time again in the third quarter as the Nets
turned a six-point deficit into an 81-77 lead entering the fourth.

Carter's one-man show offset a combined 23 points in the third
by Butler and Atkins. Carter drew gasps from the sellout crowd of
18,997 when he beat Butler with a great crossover move and finished
it with his reverse, 360-degree layup over a bewildered Brian Cook.

"It definitely wasn't premeditated. It was just a reaction,"
Carter said. "I saw him coming, so I was like, oh, well, I've got
to go the other way and avoid the charging foul. It was a crucial
time in the game, so I just had to concentrate. I was just
fortunate enough to make it, and it gave us a boost."

Already without leading scorer Richard Jefferson for the rest of
the season because of a wrist injury, New Jersey used its 13th
different starting lineup because of injuries to Brian Scalabrine
and Jason Collins.

New Jersey's three available reserves -- Travis Best, backup
center Jabari Smith and recently signed free agent Billy Thomas --
outscored their five Lakers counterparts 19-15.

"It goes to show you what can happen when a team's back is
against the wall," Butler said. "They fought with everything they
had and did everything they needed to do to win that game. Vince
did a good job getting into the paint and making acrobatic shots."

Scalabrine, who scored a career-high 29 points and got his first
double-double in Wednesday's 113-99 win at Golden State, bruised
his left knee late in that game and underwent an MRI on Friday.
Collins missed his second straight game because of a strained right
hamstring.

Rookie 7-footer Nenad Krstic started at center for the Nets,
flanked by four guards -- Kidd, Carter, Rodney Buford and Jacque
Vaughn.

Vaughn, making his fourth start, gave New Jersey an 89-86 lead
with a 3-pointer that bounced high off the rim, then off the top of
the backboard before going in with 9:16 to play.

The Lakers regained the lead about a minute later on Butler's
three-point play, but Kidd drained his third 3-pointer in a 3:02
span to give the Nets a 100-93 lead with 4:34 left.

Jumaine Jones' 3-pointer narrowed the gap to 104-101 with 2:16
remaining, but the Lakers did not make another basket, and Carter's
running jumper sealed the victory with 49 seconds to go.

Game notes
Butler appeared on "The Tonight Show" on Thursday night.
He told host Jay Leno about the days he spent in solitary
confinement at a Wisconsin correctional facility as a 14-year-old.
Butler's mother, Mattie, was in the studio audience watching her
son break down a couple of times while talking about her support.
... The Nets claimed former Lakers C Elden Campbell off waivers,
two days after he was released by Utah. "Campbell's the best big
(man) available, so I feel he can come in, play minutes for us and
help us," CEO Rod Thorn said. "We're not going to punt the season
and give up. We still have a very good opportunity in our division.
We've got a couple of top-flight players here, and we feel he can
be an asset to us."