Blazers hold on to beat Vince-less Nets

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Juan Dixon couldn't help but show a flash
of frustration. The Portland Trail Blazers almost to let another
one slip away.

Dixon had 26 points and the Portland Trail Blazers nearly
squandered a 20-point lead before holding off the New Jersey Nets
88-83 Friday night.

But he was ejected with 2:27 left for kicking a ball in the
seats and was helpless as his the Nets cut the lead to two points
down the stretch.

"I was wrong, I was frustrated. I apologize," Dixon said. "I
just wanted to try to pull through and get us the win."

The Atlantic Division-leading Nets, who were playing without top
scorer Vince Carter, have lost the first three games of their
four-game road trip. Richard Jefferson had 23 points.

Ruben Patterson added 14 points for the Blazers, who rebounded
from back-to-back-losses.

Portland, which blew a 12-point lead in a 97-94 loss to the
Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night, appeared headed to a similar
result against the Nets.

Viktor Khryapa's reverse layup put the Blazers up 58-38, but the
Nets climbed back into it in the final quarter. Clifford Robinson,
who spent half of his 16-year NBA career in Portland, scored eight
points during a 12-4 New Jersey run that cut the lead to 70-65.

After Dixon's ejection, Robinson's hook shot with 1:49 closed
New Jersey to within 82-78. Jefferson hit a pair of free throws to
get the Nets even closer.

Steve Blake and Patterson each hit two free throws in the final
seconds to help Portland hold on.

Robinson hit a 3-pointer with 2.9 seconds left but it wasn't
enough. He finished with 22 points.

"I really wanted to win this game," Dixon said. "We had
Dallas and we had Denver and we let those games slip away down the
stretch. I really wanted to go out there and be aggressive and help
us get this win."

Carter, who averages 24.1 points per game, hurt his lower back
Monday in an 89-78 loss to Utah. He re-aggravated it in a 90-77
loss Wednesday to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Against the Clippers, Carter hit just one shot from the field to
finish with a season-low three points. He left the game with 2:25
to go in the third quarter.

The team said he is day-to-day.

The Blazers took advantage of Carter's absence, and jumped out
to a 28-14 lead on Travis Outlaw's 23-foot jumper as the first
quarter wound down.

Portland extended the lead to 42-25 on Dixon's layup and the
Blazers led 48-34 at the half.

Jefferson, who missed three games this month with back spasms,
took the loss upon himself.

"Realistically, I haven't played well since I came back," he
said. "Nobody plays perfect in this league but I haven't played a
good game since I got back. Tonight it was turnovers and missed
free throws. I need to figure this out if I'm going to help our

It was the end of the Blazers' season-high eight-game homestand,
during which they went 5-3.

Game notes
The Blazers have a 45-17 all-time series advantage over the
Nets. ... Blazers coach Nate McMillan cut short practice Thursday
because of reported scuffle between Dixon and fellow point guard
Sebastian Telfair. McMillan said after the practice session that he
was not in a good mood, but refused to elaborate. After Friday's
game he had no comment. The Blazers were not expected to take
disciplinary action. Dixon was sporting a scratch on his face, but
it was not known if it was from any altercation. He said:
"Sebastian and I are fine. It's nothing. Both of us are out there
competing and both of us want to win."