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Nets get 25 from Carter, top-cold-shooting Celtics

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Though only January, the New Jersey
Nets are already getting into a playoff state of mind.

A night after falling behind early and then falling short late
at Boston, the Nets dominated the Celtics from the opening tip in
the rematch and ran away to a 103-83 win Saturday night, their 13th
in the last 17 games.

The disappointing performance Friday, particularly in the first
half of the 99-96 loss, provided a significant motivating factor
Saturday.

"It's like a playoff series," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said.
"The team that is coming off a loss in a back-to-back situation
almost has an advantage. But you still have to go out and do it. I
thought our guys played with an edge. It was a good character win
for us."

Vince Carter scored 25 points and Jacque Vaughn had a
season-high 13 off the bench as the Nets' subs made up for the
absence of center Jason Collins and forward Lamond Murray to knee
injuries.

The reserves scored 31 points through three quarters, at which
point the game was comfortably in hand for New Jersey, which has
won eight straight at home.

"I thought we played like we were capable of playing," said
reserve forward Scott Padgett, who matched Vaughn with 13 points.
"We were upset with how the game went (Friday). It's a 48-minute
game and we only played 24."

In Saturday's game, the Nets jumped ahead 15-4 and never let up,
building the lead to 18 points at halftime and 91-62 at the end of
three quarters.

The Celtics, who shot 51 percent Friday night, looked listless
and had no response at either end. Boston -- the NBA's best-shooting
team at 48 percent -- shot 38 percent from the field through the
first three quarters.

"They beat us to all the loose balls. They outworked us
tonight," said Paul Pierce, who led the Celtics with 20 points.
"We knew they were going to come out with a better urgency than
they did last night. That's what veteran teams do.

"We've got to take a page from their book. We've got to raise
our intensity to the next level."

Vaughn, who is seeing more playing time since Jeff McInnis' knee
injury last weekend, had several highlight plays, including a
twisting left-handed layup on a fast break in the first quarter and
a behind-the-back pass to Padgett for a dunk in the third quarter.

Carter, meanwhile, continued the kind of play that has fueled
the Nets' rise to the top of the Atlantic Division in the last
month -- and earned him NBA player of the month honors in December.

He scored 14 points in the first quarter and took a seat for
good at the end of the third. Carter has led the Nets in scoring
seven times in nine games this month, compared to eight times in
the season's first month when the Nets went 7-8.

It all amounted to a game that resembled the previous night's
for about the first 60 seconds.

"That's how this league goes -- you have to show up," said
Jason Kidd, who sat out the fourth quarter and finished with seven
points, eight assists and nine rebounds, missing a chance to get
his 70th career triple-double.

"In the first half up there, we felt they were going through a
walkthrough and we weren't even present. Tonight I thought we
really focused on the defensive end."
^Notes:@ Murray underwent an MRI Saturday on the strained left knee
he suffered Friday night at Boston, and Collins sat out with right
knee soreness stemming from a collision with the 76ers' Allen
Iverson last Wednesday. ... New Jersey F Clifford Robinson played
in his 1,286th game, tying him with Sam Perkins for 11th place on
the NBA's all-time list. Mark Jackson is 10th at 1,296 games. ...
The Nets' 61 points in the first half were the most they had
managed since scoring 63 in the first half of a 109-101 win at New
York on Dec. 26. ... Boston has lost six of its last seven at
Continental Airlines Arena.