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Updated: Wednesday, April 9, 2003 11:42 PM EDT
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Atlanta 97, New Jersey 92
New Jersey Nets
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ATLANTA (Ticker) -- The New Jersey Nets got what they deserved.

After battling back from a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit, the Nets absorbed a 97-92 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, who got clutch 3-pointers from Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Ira Newble in the final minutes.

Battling for the Eastern Conference's top seed for the second straight season, the Nets came out lethargic against a team already looking toward next season and playing without leading scorer Glenn Robinson.

New Jersey trailed by 17 points early in the fourth quarter before using a furious rally to tie the game on two occasions, the last time at 90-90 with 2:36 remaining on two free throws by Rodney Rogers, who scored 12 points in the final period.

"I think it's tough to win a game when you don't come out ready to play," Nets coach Byron Scott said. "That's the bottom line. We had one guy that understood what this game meant and how important this game was, and that was No. 5 (Jason Kidd). We didn't even show up until the third quarter. I thought we were over that. Evidently, as a team, we just can't handle being the best. We make it hard on ourselves."

Newble, who got the start in place of Robinson, drilled a 3-pointer from the left corner with 1:38 to play, giving the Hawks the lead for good. He finished with a season-high 16 points and made four of the Hawks' 11 3-pointers

"Defenses have to rotate to Shareef," Newble said. "That helps me get open, and tonight I knocked down the shots. I worked on my shot a lot over the summer and all this year. I'm confident with my jumper and that's a big thing."

"That corner three, that's his shot," Hawks coach Terry Stotts said. "He's open because of his teammates. JT (Jason Terry) is penetrating and the ball is being swung one extra time."

After Kidd misfired on a jumper for the Nets, Newble missed a 3-pointer and Abdur-Rahim two foul shots. But Atlanta got the offensive rebound on both of its misses and Abdur-Rahim sank a shot from beyond the arc with 18 seconds left, making it 96-90.

Kidd registered his fourth triple-double of the season and 50th career with 23 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds for the Nets (48-30), who fell into a tie with the Detroit Pistons for the conference's best record. They had their lead in the Atlantic Division reduced to 1 1/2 games over idle Philadelphia.

Like Scott, Kidd also was disappointed in his club.

"A couple of guys gave great effort from the start to the end," he said. "But as a whole, there was no effort at all. You win as a team, you lose as a team. We let a golden opportunity get away from us. I'm disappointed, in the sense of what's at stake. We're the defending Eastern Conference champs. Some people showed up, some didn't. You can't single anybody out."

The Nets lost for just the second time in their last eight games but fell to a disappointing 16-23 on the road, the worst record for any division leader.

A pair of free throws by Darvin Ham with 10:47 remaining gave the Hawks their biggest lead at 78-61. But the Nets, who were trying to sweep a season series from their conference rivals for the first time in franchise history, climbed back into it.

Kidd scored six straight points in 14-0 surge in just over two minutes that he capped with a driving layup, pulling the Nets within 78-75 with 8:04 remaining. Rogers had five points in the spurt.

Following a timeout, the Hawks looked to regain their composure and a basket by Abdur-Rahim provided an 85-79 advantage with 7:07 left.

Using their fast-break style after the Hawks began settling for jumpers, the Nets reeled of an 8-2 run, capped by a 3-pointer from Kerry Kittles that tied the contest at 87-87 with 4:10 to go.

Jason Terry shook free for an open 3-pointer before former Hawk Dikembe Mutombo made 1-of-2 from the line and Rogers converted two free throws, tying it for the last time with 2:36 remaining.

"I was pleased we withstood a run," Stotts said. "They made their threes and came back on us, and we kept our composure and made some bigsh shots at the end."

A disappointment in his first season with the Nets, Rogers finished with 15 points and made 3-of-4 shots from the arc. Mutombo, who missed more than three months with a thumb injury, continued to struggle as he had just three points and three rebounds in 19 minutes.

A former Hawk, the 7-2 Mutombo did provide some solid interior defense and played key minutes in the fourth quarter, something he has not been getting since returning from the injured list on March 29.

Terry scored 24 points and Abdur-Rahim 18 and 15 rebounds as the Hawks won for the third time in their last four games. Atlanta shot 47 percent (38-of-81) and placed all five starters in double figures.

Kittles and Richard Jefferson each scored 14 points for the Nets, who shot 50 percent (21-of-42) in the second half to finish at 43 percent (36-of-84). They also held a 46-43 edge on the boards.

The Nets built an early seven-point lead, but the Hawks closed the first quarter on an 18-3 run to take a 24-16 lead. They extended the lead to 52-38 at the break behind 11 points apiece from Newble and Abdur-Rahim.

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