Nets two wins away from postseason berth

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- After a season-long struggle, Jason
Kidd and the New Jersey Nets took control of their playoff destiny
heading into the final week of the season.

Kidd posted his 67th career triple-double and the Nets put
themselves in prime position to earn a playoff berth with a 104-83
win over Philadelphia on Sunday that prevented the 76ers' from
clinching a postseason spot.

"He had a fire going out there, pushing the ball in
transition," Nets forward Jason Collins said of Kidd, who had 11
points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds. "It's our job to keep up with
him. He did a great job of setting the tone."

While Vince Carter had 15 of his 43 points in the first quarter
and Brian Scalabrine added 10, Kidd was the catalyst as the Nets
won for the 13th time in 17 games.

The win moved New Jersey into a tie with eighth-place Cleveland
(40-40), a game behind Philadelphia (41-39) in the race for the
final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. Each team has
two games remaining.

Kidd had seven points, five assists, two rebounds, and forced
Allen Iverson into five turnovers in the first 12 minutes as New
Jersey jumped to a 38-25 lead.

"He definitely had his A game and his Jason Kidd playoff game
face on today," said Carter, who hit 17 of 33 shots from the
field, including four 3-pointers.

New Jersey, which holds the tiebreaker with both Cleveland and
Philadelphia, can earn a postseason berth with wins at home on
Tuesday against Washington and at Boston on Wednesday.

"We'd like to be playing our best basketball, and that's what
we are doing right now," Kidd said.

Philadelphia's second loss in eight games gave the Boston
Celtics their first Atlantic Division title in 13 years.

The 76ers, who missed the playoffs last season, can reach the
postseason with either one win or one Nets or Cleveland loss.
Philadelphia has home games with Milwaukee and Atlanta on Monday
and Wednesday, respectively.

"We can't use that excuse, as far as we were just due for a bad
game," said Iverson, who scored 33 points. "We couldn't take a
bad game today. We needed our best. That's what I thought was going
to come. Unfortunately we didn't."

The Cavaliers will play at home against Boston on Tuesday and at
Toronto on Wednesday.

Coming into the day, the Nets needed help and they got it when
the NBA champion Detroit Pistons beat LeBron James and the
Cavaliers 90-87, sending Cleveland to its eighth loss in 11 games.

With the scent of a fourth straight playoff appearance, the Nets
shredded the 76ers with 38 first-quarter points and a season-high
65 in the first half to take an 18-point lead.

Not even Iverson could slow the Nets down and prevent them from
reaching .500 for the first time since four games into a season
that looked lost at times. New Jersey lost Kenyon Martin to free
agency over the summer and then lost Kidd for the first month
following knee surgery. Richard Jefferson hasn't played since Jan.
8 because of a wrist injury.

Scalabrine scored the first seven points to get the Nets off
fast against the Sixers, and then Carter, who also had 11 rebounds,
took over, scoring 11 points in a 19-4 spurt that gave New Jersey a
32-15 lead.

"They were making shots and we couldn't stop them," Iverson
said. "They were hitting everything. They just played well. They
were in rhythm from the beginning to the end. Vince got off early,
Jason got everyone involved. That was a good team win for those

Philadelphia, which trailed by as many as 23 midway through the
third quarter, scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter
to cut the Nets' lead to 83-72.

After a timeout, Kidd assisted on the first of three straight
baskets by rookie Nenad Krstic for a 89-72 lead.

Krstic finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Scalabrine had
13 points and 11 rebounds.

Chris Webber, who has been struggling to fit in with the 76ers
since being acquired from Sacramento, did little again. He scored
14 points on 7-of-19 shooting, with most of the baskets coming

Game notes
The Nets' previous high point total for a half was 63
against Philadelphia on March 2 and Utah on Jan. 29. The 38
first-quarter points were two shy of New Jersey's best for any
quarter. They had 40 against Orlando on Jan. 8. ...The 40-point
game was Carter's fifth with the Nets this season. He has scored at
least 20 points in 36 of the last 38 games. Iverson has scored at
least 20 in 56 straight games. ... Jefferson will be examined by
team doctors this week to see if there is any chance he can return
to action three months after surgery to repair a ruptured ligament
in his left wrist. ...The Nets won the season series with
Philadelphia 3-1.