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15-12, 9-4 Home

Nets ice Heat in Miami behind Carter's 51

MIAMI (AP) -- The last time he played in Miami, Vince Carter
insisted he was fouled when his potentially game-winning layup was
swatted away at the buzzer.

So on Friday, he ensured the game was decided long before the
final second.

Carter tied a career high with 51 points, getting 37 in the
second half, and the New Jersey Nets extended their season-high
winning streak to five games with a 95-88 victory over the Heat.

"Basically, one guy beat us. ... Vince was unbelievable," Heat
coach Pat Riley said.

Shaquille O'Neal had 24 points and 14 rebounds, and Dwyane Wade
added 17 points -- on only 4-for-20 shooting -- for Miami, which
hosts the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday in a much-anticipated
Christmas matchup.

And given the way the Heat couldn't contain Carter, Lakers
shooting guard Kobe Bryant -- who had a 62-point effort against
Dallas earlier this week -- might be eagerly awaiting his chance to
face Miami.

Yet Carter also drew inspiration from all the Heat-Lakers hype.

"All day I've been watching TV and they were mentioning the
Christmas Day game without mentioning they had a game tonight, or
to watch the Nets," said Carter, whose team leapfrogged
Philadelphia and took a half-game lead in the Atlantic Division.
"We're just trying to earn respect."

Carter was 13-for-25 from the floor and 23-for-24 from the foul
line, easily eclipsing his previous season-best of 38 set against
Cleveland on Dec. 9. He's averaging 35.4 points on 49 percent
shooting during the Nets' winning streak.

Carter's 23 free throws were a team record and also a career
high, one more than his previous best.

"He took advantage of defensive mistakes, lapses in transition
and got some easy buckets," said Wade, who blocked Carter's layup
at the end of Miami's 90-89 win on Nov. 7. "Got to the foul line
23, 24 times, so he was very aggressive. He had a great game. ... I
take the blame for it. I did a bad job on him."

Carter had 19 points in the third, then 18 more in the fourth --
including 12 straight free throws to seal the win. Jason Kidd added
12 points for the Nets, who beat Miami for the first time in 11
meetings, including a four-game sweep in last season's playoffs.

"Outstanding would be an understatement," Nets coach Lawrence
Frank said. "Vince Carter took us on his shoulder and did a
phenomenal job."

New Jersey trailed the whole first half, then used a 33-10 run
to build a 76-60 lead with 9:24 left. Miami went on a 14-2 burst
and drew within 78-74 on Gary Payton's 3-pointer with 3:52
remaining, but the Heat got no closer in their second loss in six
games under Riley.

Antoine Walker had 12 points and James Posey added 10 for Miami,
which shot only 37 percent.

"We had a lot of shots around the basket that didn't go in,"
Riley said. "I thought we got frustrated by not getting the calls
that we thought we should have got, which leads to complaining to
the officials. ... There's got to be a lot more mental toughness
against a team like this."

Miami led 24-12 after one quarter, after New Jersey missed 11 of
its final 12 shots on the way to its lowest-scoring period of the
season.

The Nets' only make in that stretch was a dunk by Richard
Jefferson following a steal by Kidd. Jefferson, however, missed a
slam earlier in that quarter while challenging Alonzo Mourning --
one of three dunk tries that he couldn't convert against the Heat's
backup center in the opening half.

Miami stretched its lead to 30-15 on a basket by Payton with
10:14 left in the half, but missed seven of its next eight shots.
New Jersey closed the half on an 11-1 burst -- capped by Jefferson's
3-pointer from the left corner with 0.6 seconds left -- and drew
within 41-36 at intermission.

In the third, Miami continued to struggle -- and Carter took
over.

He had 14 straight New Jersey points during one span of the
period, including a 3-pointer with 5:20 left that gave the Nets
their first lead, 55-53. Another 3-pointer by Carter with 3:29 left
in the period gave New Jersey an 60-58 lead and started a 19-2
burst that put the Nets in control.

"I think we are starting to understand who we are," Carter
said, "and what we can do as a team."

Game notes
O'Neal did not speak after the game, partly because he
didn't want to answer questions about facing the Lakers on Sunday.
... Miami has allowed a total of 21 first-quarter points in its
last two games. Atlanta also established a season-low by scoring
nine against the Heat on Tuesday; New Jersey's previous low-scoring
quarter this season was 14, managed on three occasions. ... New
Jersey's didn't make three straight shots at any point in the
game's first 22 minutes. ... Miami's string of six straight games
scoring 100 or more points ended. ... Nets forward Clifford
Robinson moved into 18th place on the NBA's all-time minutes played
list. He now has 40,294, 14 more than Charles Oakley.