ATLANTA (AP) -- Richard Jefferson missed 50 games last season
with a wrist injury that limited his effectiveness in the playoffs.
Though his return wasn't enough to prevent Miami's first-round
sweep of the New Jersey Nets, Jefferson believes the New Jersey
Nets are strong enough to make run deep into postseason.
"I feel confident every game now," Jefferson said. "We have
our whole roster, and we're playing well."
Jefferson scored 27 points and Vince Carter added 26 to help New
Jersey win its 11th straight game and clinch an Eastern Conference
playoff berth with a 91-88 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday
The winning streak is the Nets' third-longest in franchise
With the game tied at 84, Carter tipped in his own miss to give
the Nets a two-point lead with 42.6 seconds remaining. Jason Kidd
then went 5-for-6 from the foul line to seal the win for New
Jersey, which has six straight road victories -- the second-longest
streak in franchise history.
"Vince had a big tip-in that gave us the lead," Kidd said.
"Then it became a free-throw game."
The Hawks lost for the sixth time in seven games. Since taking
consecutive overtime wins at New Jersey and Toronto, Atlanta has
dropped 12 of 15.
"I thought our effort was great," Hawks coach Mike Woodson
said. "From a defensive standpoint, you hold this team to 91
points and 34 percent shooting, you figure you win the game. We had
our chances down the stretch. We had a couple of defensive lapses
where we didn't block out."
Kidd finished with 11 points, but was just 1-for-12 from the
"We played one of our worst games of the streak," Kidd said.
"On defense, we got some stops when we had to."
Holding their opponent under 90 points for the 10th time in 12
games, the Nets never trailed after Joe Johnson put Atlanta ahead
77-76 with a 10-foot runner at the 4:35 mark.
"They come at you from start to finish," Carter said of the
Hawks. "We expected that, and we knew if we wanted to continue the
streak, we had to keep playing, take that first blow and keep
competing to get the win."
The Hawks had an 11-point lead, the game's biggest, after Marvin
Williams' fastbreak dunk midway through the first quarter. Johnson
led Atlanta with 20 points. Josh Smith had 17. Al Harrington
finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
"I missed a couple of layups, and we lost the game by three,"
Smith said. "It's just different things that we didn't do right
tonight. We've just got to key in what our mistakes were and try to
overcome them when we play at Memphis."
Carter, Jefferson and Kidd combined to hit 30 of 34 free throw
Jefferson had a spectacular move in the first, taking Kidd's
no-look pass on the left side and dribbling past Williams and John
Edwards for a jam that cut the Atlanta lead to 24-16.
"We didn't really shoot the ball very well as a team," said
Jefferson, who has missed only seven games this season. "When you
attack the basket and try to get to the free-throw line, that's
something that can kind of help you out. When you're not hitting
shots and you continue to get to the basket and get easy buckets,
that's something that we try to do."
Nets reserve forward Clifford Robinson passed Dennis Scott,
now a radio analyst for the Hawks, for 19th place on the NBA's list
of career of 3-pointers with 1,215. Robinson scored the basket
early in the second to bring New Jersey within four. ... Atlanta
lost for the eighth time in 10 meetings with the Nets. ... Kidd,
who had a season-high 17 assists in a 104-102 overtime loss to the
Hawks on Feb. 27, finished with just two. ... New Jersey improved
to 33-0 when leading after three quarters.