EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- In a self-described "barometer
game," the New Jersey Nets showed how much they are rising.
Jason Kidd had his 41st career triple-double, completing it with
his 10th rebound after Todd MacCulloch blocked a shot with 10
seconds left as the Nets defeated the San Antonio Spurs 99-97
"I think we measure up pretty good. I think we're at the top,"
Nets forward Kenyon Martin said.
MacCulloch rejected a shot by Steve Smith, leading to a 3-on-1
break and a layup by Kerry Kittles for a 99-97 lead with 6 seconds
left. Ex-Net Stephen Jackson missed a 3-pointer for the Spurs, and
Malik Rose couldn't convert a short jumper after grabbing the
Martin jumped atop the scorer's table as the final buzzer
sounded and the Nets had secured their fifth straight victory --
matching their longest winning steak of the season. The last time
the Nets won that many in a row was four years ago.
New Jersey leads the Eastern Conference with a 25-11 record.
"I don't care what people say. I know we have a great team,"
Martin said. "They can keep doubting us and doubting us, and we'll
be in the playoffs before they know it.
Kidd had 16 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds for his third
triple-double of the season. Kerry Kittles had 22 points,
MacCulloch had 18 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks, and Martin
scored 17 for the Nets, who outrebounded the Spurs 45-31.
Tim Duncan led San Antonio with 27 points.
Nets coach Byron Scott had called it a "barometer game," in
part because the Nets had played only two of the better teams from
the West -- beating Minnesota in overtime at home and losing on the
road at Sacramento.
"It means a little bit more. We already know we're one of the
best teams in the East," Scott said. "But how do we gauge against
these other teams, especially the powerhouses in the West -- and
there's five of them? This gives us a chance to see where we are
and how far we've come."
The Nets held a lead throughout most of the second half, but San
Antonio slowly crept back as Duncan started scoring over Keith Van
Horn, who defended him for most of the night.
Duncan's two foul shots with 2:09 left tied it at 91-91, and
Smith hit a 3-pointer with 1:12 left to finally give the Spurs
their first lead of the second half. Martin quickly answered with a
turnaround, Duncan made one of two from the line with 36 seconds
left for a 97-97 tie.
Martin missed for the Nets when he forced a shot up against a
triple-team with 27 seconds left, but MacCulloch made up for that
error with his blocked shot.
"I saw Smitty going in for a dunk, and Todd stepped up from the
weak side and made a hell of a block," Kidd said. "I got the ball
I knew we had the numbers, and I wasn't looking for a timeout at
that point. We needed to get our two points and rely on our defense
to win the game.
The game stayed close until Kidd hit a 3-pointer to start a 9-0
run that gave the Nets a 44-35 lead. Kidd hit a twisting layup off
a pass from MacCulloch on a broken play for a 50-40 lead, then
ended the first half with a 3-pointer to make it 55-46.
San Antonio pulled within three points early in the third as
both Duncan and Antonio Daniels went coast-to-coast for uncontested
layups, but the Nets came out of a timeout with an 11-2 run ending
with a fast-break layup by Kittles on Kidd's 10th assist to open
their biggest lead of the game to that point at 68-56.
Jackson, who scored a season-high 16, hit a 3-pointer at the
third-quarter buzzer to make it 76-70 entering the fourth. He
conceded afterward that he shouldn't have hoisted up such a long
3-pointer on his team's final possession.
"There was confusion on the last throw, and that confusion was
caused by me," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "We were in
trouble on the last play because I caused the team a lot of
Spurs starting point guard Tony Parker scored nine points
in the first five minutes before spraining his right ankle. He did
not return. ... The Spurs got 44 points from their reserves. ...
The Nets haven't won six in a row since the 1992-93 season. ... The
teams play again in eight days at the Alamodome. ... New Jersey
improved to 6-1 at home against teams from the West.
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