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Updated: Saturday, March 29, 2003 1:54 AM EST
NBA RECAP
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New Jersey 122, New York 101
NEW JERSEY NETS
New Jersey Nets
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NEW YORK KNICKS
New York Knicks
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NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Richard Jefferson called it "a great rivalry," then proceeded to make a mockery of it.

Jefferson scored a career-high 39 points, including seven dunks, to lead the New Jersey Nets to a 122-101 rout of the New York Knicks and a sweep of their home-and-home series.

Nets coach Byron Scott made headlines earlier this season when he claimed the Atlantic Division foes separated by the Hudson River were not rivals because the Knicks were not good enough. He later retreated from that, calling the Knicks a "very good" team.

Jefferson went so far as to call it a "great rivalry" after the Nets earned a hard-fought 101-95 win over the Knicks on Wednesday. But on Friday, it looked like anything but a rivalry as the Nets beat the Knicks for the ninth time in their last 10 meetings and officially clinched a playoff berth when the Milwaukee Bucks lost later Friday at Utah.

"I know we love playing against the Knicks," Jefferson said. "It's a road game where you play 20 minutes from home and you play in front of an excited crowd."

The Nets took an opportunity to present their version of "Showtime" to a sellout crowd at Madison Square Garden. Jefferson hit 16-of-22 shots and used his superior leaping ability to thrill the crowd with an assortment of one-handed and reverse dunks that resembled his new Nike commercial.

Jason Kidd set up most of them and finished with 16 assists, despite sitting for the entire fourth quarter.

"I think it was one of our best all-around games, offensively and defensively," Kidd said. "For us to come out tonight with this kind of energy was big."

Kenyon Martin also benefited from Kidd's playmaking, scoring 25 points on 11-of-15 shooting, including four dunks.

The Nets shot 62 percent (50-of-81) from the field and also set season highs with 38 points in the first quarter and 74 in the first half.

"Offensively, I thought we were terrific," Scott said. "A lot of it stemmed from our defense, which I thought was very active. But offensively, that was one of the best we have played all year long."

Kidd had seven assists in the first quarter alone, setting up Jefferson and Martin for two dunks apiece to help the Nets build a 38-28 lead.

The highlight of the night came late in the quarter when Kidd, standing with his back to the basket at midcourt, nonchalantly tapped a pass over his head and toward a streaking Jefferson, who threw down a one-handed dunk.

"The one he tapped behind his head, I was trying not to laugh before I dunked it," Jefferson said. "That was some old-school park stuff, a guy does something so nasty like that. He's one of the greatest of all time."

A 10-0 run in the second quarter highlighted by a pair of 3-pointers by Kerry Kittles helped the Nets increase the advantage to 55-39. Kittles finished with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting.

Kidd's highlight reel in the second half came on a 50-foot alley-oop pass to Martin for a dunk.

"We were having fun out there getting up and down the court," Martin said. "When we have our transition game going like we did tonight, that's when we're at our best."

A tip-in by Jefferson gave New Jersey its biggest lead at 116-92 with 4:26 left.

Scott did not give Jefferson a chance to reach 40, pulling him from the game with 3:42 to go.

Atop the Atlantic Division, the Nets moved 1 1/2 games ahead of Philadelphia, which lost at home to Golden State. New Jersey also damaged New York's playoff hopes.

The Knicks (32-41) trail Washington (34-38) and Milwaukee (34-39) in the race for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot.

"They beat us every way there is to beat a team," Knicks coach Don Chaney said. "They beat us off the drive, they beat us on jump shots, they beat us on dunks and lobs. We always have a matchup problem with a team like this because they're much quicker and much more athletic."

Allan Houston, who strained his right hamstring in Wednesday's game, led the Knicks with 27 points. Howard Eisley added 18 points and seven assists.

"A lot of those transition baskets really got them going," said Houston, who had five turnovers. "When you get a lot of easy baskets, your confidence grows."

The Knicks led, 22-18, but committed five turnovers in their next seven possessions. The Nets closed the quarter with a 20-6 run, including three dunks by Jefferson.

"Those turnovers really hurt us," Chaney said. "When you play a team like the Nets you have to take care of the ball or they'll make you pay."

The Nets followed with 36 points in the second quarter to open a 74-57 halftime advantage.

The Knicks opened the second half with a 12-5 run, pulling within 79-69 on a jumper by Eisley with 7:14 left.

But an alley-oop from Kidd to Martin ignited a 16-8 spurt for the Nets, opening the lead to 95-77 with 1:40 to play in the quarter.

"That was an amazing dunk by Kenyon," Jefferson said. "His whole chest and side was on the backboard. It was amazing."

Jefferson's last dunk - a reverse slam off an alley-oop pass by Rodney Rogers with 10:02 left - elicited the same kind of response from Martin.

"That's RJ," Martin said. "I think our guys liked that one the best."


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