Nets get first win on season vs. Knicks, trail Hawks by one game

NEW YORK (AP) -- The New Jersey Nets avoided what could've been a humiliating sweep, and managed to stay in the Eastern Conference playoff race for one more day.

Vince Carter scored 27 points, Richard Jefferson added 26 and the Nets moved within one game of the final playoff spot in the conference with a 106-91 victory over the New York Knicks on Monday night. The Nets also defeated their cross-Hudson rivals for the first time this season after three losses.

"We weren't really thinking about a sweep," Nets head coach Lawrence Frank said. "Regardless of who we play, we need to win as many games as possible. So, this was just game one of 12."

The Nets haven't been swept by the Knicks in a full season since losing all five games in 1990-91. The Nets did go 0-3 vs. the Knicks in the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season

The victory snapped a nine-game road-losing streak and moved the Nets to within one game of Atlanta (30-39) and one-half game ahead of Indiana (29-41) in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.

The Nets haven't missed the playoffs since the 2000-01 season.

Jefferson scored 21 of his points in the first half as the Nets took a 56-45 lead into the break.

"For us, it's not about the Knicks, but about how we're going to play," Jefferson said. "We never determine ourselves or our season by the way we play against the Knicks."

The Knicks, who have lost five in a row and 12 of their last 13, pulled back to within 63-52 on David Lee's layup with 8:55 remaining in the third quarter.

However, that was as close as the Knicks got the rest of the way, as the Nets scored the next 11 points in a 19-4 run to take a game-high 82-56 lead. Carter, who finished with 16 second-half points, had nine points during that stretch, while Krstic added eight.

"I know we're playing the last 11 games this season and all that other stuff doesn't matter to me," Carter said. "When you step in the game, you need to bring it. I'm just glad to see the guys really respond tonight."

The Nets fell behind 8-4 early in the contest, but scored the next eight points and took the lead for good on Josh Boone's dunk with 7:45 remaining in the first quarter.

New Jersey increased its lead to 15 points on two occasions in the second quarter, the final time coming on Jefferson's free throw with 4 minutes left in the first half.

Jamal Crawford led the Knicks with 26 points, while Zach Randolph had 17 in his return to New York's starting lineup. Lee finished with 12 points and a game-high 13 rebounds, while Wilson Chandler added 12 points for the Knicks.

"Our team and their team are completely different from when we beat them earlier in the year," Crawford said. "We were still fighting for the playoffs back then. Now, we're just trying to get minutes for everyone on our bench."

The Nets are just happy to get the much-needed win, no matter who's on the court.

"Well, we had more points than them," Frank said. "So that's a first this year. Now we have to move on, have a good practice, and get ready for Indiana."

Game notes
Despite the loss, the Knicks captured the season series from the Nets for the first time since 1999-2000. ... Randolph returned to the Knicks' starting lineup after being held out of the previous two games by Isiah Thomas. ... The Knicks tied a franchise record with their seventh straight home loss (also done in 1963). ... The Nets shot over 50 percent from the field (37-69, .536) for the fifth time in their past seven games.