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Jefferson Leads Nets to Seventh Straight Win
NEW JERSEY—Vince Carter is the reigning Eastern Conference player of the week, but Richard Jefferson is the frontrunner for the weekly award after leading the Nets to a 96-91 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Jefferson scored 28 points, on 9 of 11 shooting from the field, to help New Jersey win its seventh game in a row. Cleveland, who also entered the game on a six-game winning streak, was lead by LeBron James (31 points).
However, James’ Cavaliers could not overcome the sharp-shooting Nets who shot 59 percent from the field in the first half (23-39) and their own ineffectiveness from the three point line (9 percent in the first half).
The Nets opened up a 29-21 first quarter lead on the strength of several half court sets that included some excellent teamwork between Nenad Krstic (13 points) and Carter (21 points). However, James (10 rebounds) scored the first seven points of the second quarter to cut the Nets lead to 33-28.
The Nets quickly rebounded with five offensive boards and 12 points in the paint to take a 56-41 lead which was capped off by a buzzer beating three-pointer by Jefferson.
“We did not want to get blown out or embarrassed,” James said after Cleveland dropped to 17-10 on the season. However, the Nets third quarter lead swelled to 18 points despite a 13-4 run by Cleveland and 17 points by Zydrunas Ilgauskas (21points) and Larry Hughes (16 points, 7 assists).
Carter, who averaged 39.5 points per game a week earlier, weathered constant foul trouble to contribute 21 points including 11 of 15 from the line. Jason Kidd, who seemed to find his range with two straight, fourth quarter three pointers, chipped in 14 points and 9 assists.
Earlier this month, the Nets cruised to a 109-100 victory over the Cavaliers and looked to repeat the feat until the Cavaliers went on a 12-0 run fueled by a buffet of shots by Ilgauskas. Two free throws by Carter appeared to seal the deal until James and Hughes hit two consecutive three pointers to bring the Cavaliers with four – 93-89. However, two free throws and one defensive rebound by Kidd insured the Nets fifth straight victory over the Cavaliers.
The Nets bench outscored the Cavaliers reserves 20 to 13. “We can’t come back against a team like that being down 18 points,” said Cavaliers coach Mike Brown.
Game Notes: The Nets and Cavaliers rosters include 6 foreign born players… The sellout crowd of 20,098 included Mets manager Willie Randolph… The Nets have won nine of their last 12.