Regular Season Series (Game 3 of 4)

Series starts 12/30

Game 1: Friday, December 30th
Game 2: Monday, February 27th
Game 3: Friday, March 31st
Game 4: Tuesday, April 4th

Nets 91


Hawks 88

(22-49, 15-21 home)

7:00 PM ET, March 31, 2006

Philips Arena, Atlanta, GA

1 2 3 4 T
NJ 19 25 22 2591
ATL 27 18 19 2488

Top Performers

NJ: R. Jefferson 27 Pts, 9 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl

Atl: J. Johnson 22 Pts, 5 Reb, 8 Ast

Nets top Hawks to win 11th straight, clinch playoff spot

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 night.

The winning streak is the Nets' third-longest in franchise history.

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 field.

"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 attempts.

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."

Game notes

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.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 91 88
FGM-FGA 26-75 (.347) 35-74 (.473)
3PM-3PA 2-15 (.133) 3-15 (.200)
FTM-FTA 37-42 (.881) 15-22 (.682)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 20-51 9-37
Assists 7 23
Turnovers 13 14
Steals 5 4
Blocks 1 7
Fast Break Points 7 10
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 22 (0/0) 31 (1/0)
Largest Lead 5 11

Top Performers

New Jersey
Richard Jefferson Jefferson
Points: 27
Reb: 9
Ast: 2
Stl: 1
Blk: 0
Joe Johnson Johnson
Points: 22
Reb: 5
Ast: 8
Stl: 0
Blk: 0