Thursday , Mar , 31 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

Don’t count out the Nets

By Warren Blatt, Sports Network NBA Editor

(Sports Network) – New Jersey could sneak in and steal one of the final spots
in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Nets are just 1 1/2 games behind
No. 8 Philadelphia and three away from catching the seven-seeded Indiana
Pacers.

The Nets, who are currently No. 10 and are just 1/2 game in back of the ninth
seed Orlando Magic, have 10 games left on their schedule. They will split
their final contests evenly between the Meadowlands and the road. All of the
games are against Eastern Conference teams, including home games against
Orlando and Philadelphia and a road contest against the Pacers.

New Jersey has been playing solid basketball as of late. It has won seven of
its last nine games overall. The Nets have allowed their opponents to score
more than 100 points just once in their last 12 contests, while they have
netted more than 90 points in eight of their last nine games.

Vince Carter, who was traded by the Toronto Raptors to New Jersey on December
17th, has been a great addition to the Nets. The five-time All-Star has been
on fire lately, as he has netted 20 or more points in 10 of his last 11 games.
Carter, who has scored in double-digits in all 47 games that he has played in
for the Nets, is averaging 27.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists in his
last 10 outings.

The 27-year-old Carter, who is averaging 26.5 points, six boards and 4.7
assists in a New Jersey uniform, is leading the charge towards a possible
playoff berth. The North Carolina product is playing with the same enthusiasm
as he used to when he was just starting out in the NBA.

Teaming up with Carter is seven-time All-Star Jason Kidd. The two stars give
the Nets one of the most skilled and exciting one-two punches in the league.
They have jelled extremely well together and seem to be getting better as they
play more with each other.

Kidd appears to be happy playing alongside Carter and the results are starting
to show up in the standings. He is averaging 12.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 8.5
assists in his last 10 games and has registered three double-doubles and one
triple-double in that span. With forward Richard Jefferson lost for the season
because of a wrist injury he suffered on December 27th against Detroit, Kidd
has found a new running mate in Carter to keep New Jersey’s transition game as
effective as ever.

The 32-year-old Kidd, who was rumored to be unhappy at one point of the season
and was possibly going to ask for a trade, has to be pleased with what he has
seen with his team. If Jefferson was healthy, the Nets would most likely have
been trying to win an Atlantic Division crown, instead of just trying to
qualify for the postseason.

Besides the games against Indiana, which is scheduled to play seven of its
final 12 games at Conseco Fieldhouse, Orlando and Philadelphia, the Nets will
host New York, Boston and the Washington Wizards, while they will visit New
York, Cleveland, Toronto and the Celtics. New Jersey needs to concentrate on
its schedule and can’t worry about what the Magic, who will play six of
their last 11 games at home, Pacers and Sixers, who will play seven of their
final 11 contests at the Wachovia Center, are doing.

With the Nets playing winning basketball, there is no room for a lapse by the
Magic, Pacers or 76ers. The three teams are going to have to keep winning if
they hope to keep the Nets away.

The bottom line is that the Nets will go only as far as Carter and Kidd can
take them. New Jersey, which is 25-22 with Carter in the lineup, need the two
stars to continue their stellar play if it hopes to jump into the playoff mix.

Carter, who was unhappy in Toronto, has found a new energy with the Nets and
has gotten back his swagger since being traded to his new club. He has teamed
up with Kidd to give New Jersey a new lease on life in the 2004-05 campaign.
With Kidd and Carter playing like they are on a mission, New Jersey could find
its way into the postseason.

Don’t count the Nets out!