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Robinson's 3-pointers give Nets seventh straight

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- It didn't matter that Clifford
Robinson had missed seven of his first nine shots. He was open and
the game was on the line, and players don't hang around for 17
years in the NBA if they don't cash in more of those opportunities
than they squander.

Robinson made two 3-pointers late in the fourth quarter to help
New Jersey pull away, and the Nets beat Minnesota 86-82 Thursday
night for their seventh straight victory and 15th win in their last
18 home games.

Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson each scored 21 points as the
Nets snapped a four-game losing streak to Minnesota. But it was the
two times Carter set up Robinson late in the game that made the
difference.

"Cliff had the courage to step up and shoot them. That's why
he's still at a high level at 39 years old," Nets coach Lawrence
Frank said. "You can't be afraid to miss a shot."

Both shots came from the left side and both gave New Jersey some
breathing room. The first came with the game tied at 75 with 2:12
left, and Robinson buried the second with 53 seconds left after
Marcus Banks had pulled Minnesota within a point with two free
throws.

"They were pretty much the same play," said Robinson, who has
more years in the league than any active player. "On the first
one, they left me to focus on Vince, and he did a good job of
finding me. Vince, Richard, Jason (Kidd), they really command a lot
of attention, and at that point of the game you're going to think
that they're going to get the shot."

Up to that point, the Nets had struggled for long stretches
against Minnesota's zone defense. They trailed by as many as 16
points in the second quarter, but erased a 10-point halftime
deficit and led by as many as four points in the third quarter
before the Timberwolves came back to take a 70-64 lead on Ricky
Davis' 3-pointer.

"We weren't very patient early," Carter said. "We were going
a little bit too fast. The zone really threw things out of whack.
Guys were taking jumpers instead of penetrating and then finding
the open guy."

It didn't matter in the end because Minnesota's penchant for
losing leads took hold, and the Timberwolves scored just 12 points
in the game's final 10:54. They fell to 22-11 when leading after
three quarters, the second-most losses in the NBA.

"We have to hang on to our leads. We give them away like
they're candy," said Kevin Garnett, who scored only nine of his 24
points in the second half. "It's frustrating. You have to
understand the personnel. We have a young team. Our guys haven't
been in these situations, and they're learning."

Banks scored 18 points and left Kidd in the dust on several
drives. Mark Blount also scored 18 for Minnesota and combined with
Garnett to outscore New Jersey's frontcourt duo of Nenad Krstic and
Jason Collins 29-5 in the first half.

Kidd finished 17 points and nine assists, and Krstic had 13
points and 13 rebounds.

While the Atlantic Division-leading Nets carry their seven-game
winning streak into a challenging three-game set against Detroit,
Phoenix and Memphis, the Timberwolves can only hope for help from
other teams as they hold onto slim hopes for a playoff spot.

"We always hold out hope," coach Dwane Casey said.
"Mathematically we're still in it. Every time we walk out on the
floor, we're playing for something and we're playing for
improvement."

Game notes
Kidd celebrated his 33rd birthday Thursday. ... The Nets
improved to 7-27 when trailing after three quarters. They are 31-0
when leading after three quarters. ... Minnesota was 19-for-67 (28
percent) in its last seven games from 3-point range and didn't
attempt any in the first three quarters Thursday. The Timberwolves
finished 1-for-8. ... Early in the third quarter, a bird flew out
from underneath the overhead scoreboard and soared some 20 feet
above the court before landing in the lower-level seats.