OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- The New Jersey Nets were reminded of how
much easier things are when they play from ahead.
Vince Carter scored 27 points as New Jersey held off a furious
fourth-quarter rally and beat New Orleans 95-84 Sunday night, the
Hornets' season-worst sixth straight loss.
The Nets won for only the second time in their last seven games
and gave third-year coach Lawrence Frank his 100th win with the
team. The man Frank replaced, Hornets coach Byron Scott, now is 0-4
against his former team.
"I think (our execution) has been under scrutiny of late and it
starts as a team," New Jersey guard Jason Kidd said. "We all
support one another and I thought tonight was a great example of
those guys coming off the bench and giving us a big lift."
The Atlantic Division-leading Nets shot 52 percent from the
field and held the Hornets to 41 percent. The Hornets had won nine
of their last 10 games before the All-Star break.
The Hornets fell a half-game behind Sacramento for the eighth
and final playoff spot in the Western Conference after the Kings
beat Dallas 85-80 Sunday night.
"We are digging ourselves a big hole in these games," Hornets
rookie guard Chris Paul said. "Maybe what we need is to have a
reality check, and fall out of the playoffs, and (realize) that the
playoffs can be taken away from us."
New Jersey led 70-51 late in the third quarter, but New Orleans
pulled within 82-78 with 2:42 left on a driving layup by Paul, who
led the Hornets with 17 points and seven assists. The Hornets had a
chance to pull even closer, but Rasual Butler missed a long jumper
with 1:55 left.
Kidd's 3-pointer with 1:40 left gave the Nets a seven-point
cushion, and New Jersey went 8-of-8 from the free throw line in the
final 48 seconds to seal the win. Carter, who made four of those
free throws, finished 10-of-10 from the line. New Jersey made 26 of
28 free throws.
"We had that energy," Carter said. "We had a lead and our
bench kept the lead. We didn't have to play catch-up, which is real
tough to do. We had a comfortable lead and we were able to play
basketball and not overdo it (or) rush."
Kidd just missed what would have been his sixth triple-double
this season, finishing with 15 points, 12 rebounds and nine
assists. The double-double was his 23rd of the season.
Richard Jefferson added 19 points for New Jersey.
The Nets never trailed, scoring the first eight points and
making nine of their first 14 field-goal attempts. The Hornets
missed their first six shots and didn't make their first basket
until 5½ minutes into the game.
"It hasn't been since the (All-Star) break where we were able
to come out and do what we did to make it 8-0, and it started on
the defensive end," Frank said. "We played really good defense in
the first half, forcing them to shoot some shots with just three or
four seconds left on the shot clock."
New Jersey twice pushed its first-half lead to 14 points, the
latter time after Carter scored seven straight points, capped by a
3-pointer with 2:38 left in the half. The Hornets closed the half
on an 8-2 run to cut New Jersey's lead to 46-38.
A three-point play by Paul brought New Orleans within 51-45 in
the third quarter, but the Nets scored the next nine points,
rebuilding their lead to 15. New Jersey's lead peaked at 19 points.
"We are playing soft right now," Scott said. "Every team we
are going against is thinking we are soft and the only way to
change that is to not be soft.
"Obviously we are going to have to try some different things,
because right now we're not getting the job done."
The game drew 19,198 fans to the Ford Center, the Hornets'
17th sellout this season. ... New Jersey is 27-0 this season when
leading after three quarters. ... The Hornets took 21 more shots
than the Nets but made just two more.