Kidd dishes out season-high 17 assists

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Making a pregame speech about being
ready for the opening tipoff wasn't enough for Vince Carter. His
contribution to the New Jersey Nets' playoff push was a career-best
quarter and almost a career-best game.

Carter outscored the Boston Celtics 24-19 in the first quarter
en route to a season-best 45 points, leading the Nets to a 99-86
victory Saturday afternoon.

"With these last six or seven games I am just trying to take it
up one more notch," Carter said after the Nets won for the 11th
time in 14 games. "I am just trying to get everyone to focus in a
little more. I am just trying to grab and pull everything out of
each player to commit to these last couple of games. I think we are
capable of being in the playoffs. If you get in you never know what
can happen."

Jason Kidd added a season-high 17 assists and rookie center
Nenad Krstic had 17 points.

The Nets (38-39) have five games to play in their bid to catch
Philadelphia or Cleveland for the final playoff spot in the Eastern

"If everybody is together and everybody is focused, we're a
pretty tough team to beat," Carter said. "From the time I woke up
until game time, the same thing ran through my head. I wanted to
make sure everyone was in it. With a team like Boston, it's
important for us to play our best basketball early."

Paul Pierce had 16 points to lead the Celtics, who saw coach Doc
Rivers get ejected after just 1:41 for arguing a call with referee
Tim Donaghy. The good news for Rivers was he didn't have to watch
Carter beat his team.

The All-Star finished 18-of-32 from the field, including 7-of-9
from 3-point range. He hit his first six shots and 9-of-10,
including all five 3-pointers, in the first quarter as New Jersey
took a 37-19 lead.

"I hit a few of them and just felt good," said Carter, who
felt his shooting range was limitless Saturday. "Once I got
confident I tried to get where I could be effective."

With Carter hitting almost everything, Kidd said his job was
easy -- just give Carter the ball, something he did a dozen times
for assists.

"When he is going like that, you don't want to get out of his
way. You want to be right there to help him out when they come to
double," Kidd said. "But it didn't matter if they double-teamed.
He was just going to shoot over people this afternoon and he did

The 24 points were a single-quarter high in the NBA this year --
four players had 22. The total for the quarter was also Carter's
best in his seven-year career, four better than his previous high,
last done against Golden State on Nov. 7, 2001.

"It doesn't bother me if a guy is hot," Pierce said. "When a
guy is hot and you are down 16 to 18 points, that's more deflating
than the guy making every shot."

While his opening quarter was spectacular, Carter had other
moments that got the fans out of their seats. He hit a late
3-pointer in the second quarter that helped New Jersey take a 55-44
halftime lead. And he had two phenomenal plays in the third quarter
with Boston still close.

With Boston trailing 64-53, Carter hit a layup and then got up
off the court and made an alley-oop layup on a pass from Kidd. What
made the play so interesting was that Celtics guard Gary Payton
pushed Carter to the floor and stood over him for a couple of
seconds before Carter got up and made the play.

The other highlight came on a fast break. Carter probably should
have been called for an offensive foul, but he took a pass from
Kidd and, with his back to the basket, threw a shot over his
shoulder that banked in. The officials didn't seem to care that
Delonte West was bowled over on the play.

"That's the beauty of being a teammate of Vince, you see that
in practice all the time," Kidd said.

Carter's career best is 51 against Phoenix in 2000. The Nets'
franchise single-game record is 52 points, set by Mike Newlin
against Boston in 1979 and matched by Ray Williams at Detroit in

Rivers was hit with consecutive technical fouls by Donaghy for
arguing an offensive foul call against Antoine Walker.

"I don't care if your coach does get kicked out of a basketball
game," Payton said. "We still know how to play basketball. We
know all our offensive plays. We don't make excuses because our
coach got kicked out."

Game notes
Walker returned to the Celtics lineup after missing three
games with a bruised left knee. He had six points. ... New Jersey
leads the season series with Boston 2-1. The teams will play on the
final day of the regular season. ... Nets official scorer Herb
Turetzky worked his 900th consecutive home game, a streak that
started on May 3, 1984.