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Nets drop shorthanded Pacers, snap three-game skid

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- The New Jersey Nets needed a pick-me-up after a winless road trip, and it was provided by the sight of leading scorer Jermaine O'Neal on the Indiana Pacers' bench in street clothes.

Jason Kidd scored 23 points, including a season-high five 3-pointers, and had 10 assists in the Nets' 97-92 win over the injury-depleted Pacers on Monday. New Jersey snapped a three-game losing streak and won for the 11th time in its last 14 games.

In addition to O'Neal, who sprained his ankle Saturday against Chicago, Indiana was without point guard Jamaal Tinsley, who has missed several games with a torn biceps and elbow soreness. The Pacers are also missing Ron Artest, who has not played since asking to be traded last month.

After losses to San Antonio, Memphis and Dallas -- the loss to the Mavericks was by 33 points -- the Nets (20-15) were in no mood to take it easy on the visitors.

"It wouldn't have mattered if they only had five guys to play with," said Vince Carter, who led the Nets with 24 points. "Sometimes when a great player is not in the lineup, that's when a team is most dangerous because you play together and you play loose. That was in our mind before the game, and our goal was to jump on them early."

With Kidd connecting from the outside and Richard Jefferson (4-for-13, 11 points, 10 rebounds) back in the lineup after missing three games with back spasms, Carter was spared the usual double- and triple-teams and scored 17 points in the first half as the Nets took a 58-43 lead. He and Kidd led a 21-8 run to close the half after Indiana cut a 31-19 lead to 37-35.

The Pacers (20-16) had five turnovers during that span and finished the half with 11, though they only had two in the second half.

"When you're missing people, your margin of error becomes much smaller," said Austin Croshere, who led Indiana with 17 points. "You have to execute things a lot better. We had a lot of turnovers in the first half that really cost us and opened up the game for them."

After the Pacers got to within six points (60-54) in the third quarter, the Nets appeared poised to pull away again when two 3-pointers and a jumper by Kidd led a run that gave New Jersey a 77-65 lead at the start of the final quarter.

Indiana refused to give in and again closed to six points at 81-75 on a drive by Fred Jones. They trailed 94-89 after Sarunas Jasikevicius scored with 21 seconds left, but Carter made 1-of-2 free throws and Croshere's 3-point attempt rimmed out.

Kidd's accuracy from the outside also opened the middle up for Nenad Krstic, and the center finished with 20 points. A career 33 percent shooter from 3-point range, Kidd was shooting 37 percent this season before Monday's 5-for-7 effort.

"I hope I helped Vince out where he doesn't always have to face a double- or triple-team," said Kidd, "and also make opponents pay for leaving me. I've been working on it for 11 years and now they're finally starting to go in."

Jefferson, who is averaging 18 points this season, showed some rust in his first action since a week ago Sunday but demonstrated that his back was fit enough with a dunk over Danny Granger in the first quarter and a baseline jam in the third quarter.

"I felt good," he said. "It was a little tight, a little sore. But it felt good being out on the floor."

Game notes
Kidd's career high for 3-pointers is eight ... An MRI Sunday revealed that Nets guard Jeff McInnis suffered torn cartilage in his left knee against Dallas on Saturday night that will require
surgery ... The Nets are 19-0 when leading after three quarters this season ... Indiana last scored 100 points against the Nets on Dec. 21, 2001, 14 games ago.