EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- The New Jersey Nets' Big Three
might soon increase by one.
Nenad Krstic scored a season-high 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting
Wednesday night, including two big baskets in the fourth quarter
that helped the Nets maintain a double-digit lead in an eventual
91-83 win over Utah.
New Jersey's talented trio of Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson
and Jason Kidd also contributed. Carter scored 21 points, and
Jefferson barely missed the second triple-double of his career with
17 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds. Kidd finished with 11
points and seven assists.
It was Carter's passing and Krstic's finishing ability that
helped the Nets stop a Utah rally in the fourth quarter. With the
Jazz whittling a 15-point lead to nine, Carter drove the lane and
kicked the ball out to Krstic. The 7-foot center sank a 17-foot
jumper to give New Jersey an 82-71 lead with 5:11 left.
When Deron Williams' 3-pointer pulled the Jazz within eight at
84-76 with 3:36 left, Carter dribbled to the foul line and found
Krstic underneath for a reverse layup that pushed the lead back to
10. Utah never got closer than seven points again, and that came
with 24 seconds left.
"He was big," Carter said of the second-year pro from
Serbia-Montenegro whose continued development is one of the keys to
the Nets' success this season. "He's shooting with confidence and
attacking the rim. He's making himself harder to guard because he's
a big guy who has pretty good skills in the post, and he can also
step out and shoot the ball."
Krstic is considered the player most likely to benefit from the
attention paid to his three more celebrated teammates, and he has
taken advantage lately: in his last four games he's shot 22-for-43
(51 percent). He scored 10 of his points in the first quarter
Wednesday, four on two dunks off passes by Jefferson and Kidd.
"Those guys are all great passers," said Krstic, who was
drafted by the Nets in 2002 but played in his native country before
joining the Nets last season. "They're not selfish. I've played
with them enough so that I know how to find the right place to
Utah trailed 49-48 with 8:12 left in the third quarter, but
managed only nine points the rest of the period as New Jersey
clamped down on defense. When Zoran Planinic swished a 77-foot
heave at the buzzer, the Nets' lead had reached 72-57.
"We forgot about our execution and our scoring inside," said
Andrei Kirilenko, who led the Jazz with 18 points. "We just
started firing up from outside. That killed us."
^Notes:@ Earlier in the day, New Jersey coach Lawrence Frank was
fined $25,000 by the NBA for verbally abusing a referee and
refusing to leave the court after the Nets' 90-89 loss at Miami
Monday night. Frank was mum before the game about the decision.
"That's yesterday's news. We turn the page," he said ...
Jefferson's only triple-double came against Houston on March 31,
2003 ... Kidd played in his 300th game for the Nets ... The game
was the ninth in which Jason and Jarron Collins, the NBA's only
twin brothers, faced each other. They split the first eight.