Nets 105, Pacers 95

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)—After spending the last nine years collecting frequent-flier miles and more than a few rejection slips, Mikki Moore has found a niche with the New Jersey Nets.

The 7-foot journeyman stepped into the lineup when Nenad Krstic was lost for the season with a knee injury last month and has begun to pay regular dividends. On Monday he scored 19 points—including four dunks in the first quarter—as New Jersey opened a big early lead and ran away from Indiana in a 105-95 victory.

Vince Carter led New Jersey with 31 points and Jason Kidd added 19 and narrowly missed his second triple-double in three games with 10 assists and nine rebounds.

Moore was added in the offseason to spell Krstic, who tore his left ACL on Dec. 22 against Los Angeles. In contrast to the third-year Serbian, Moore had been with eight NBA teams before arriving in New Jersey, in addition to spending time in Greece and in the CBA.

A career three-points-per-game scorer, Moore has averaged 11 points over his last six games, and scored a career-high 20 on nine-for-nine shooting against Minnesota on Dec. 30.

Moore acknowledges that he is rarely the first option on a play, but that his teammates have a knack of finding him when he is open. That is usually around the basket, as in Monday’s first quarter.

“They’re really unselfish,” he said. “If the play is there, they’ll get me the ball. And if they’re going to put that trust in me, I have to finish.”

Moore’s transformation from a bench player who could provide energy and rebounding into a dependable scorer has been timely for New Jersey, which is 17-20 but still only percentage points behind first-place Toronto in the Atlantic Division.

“I think it may have been more of an adjustment for him to the way we play, because we’re all such willing passers,” Carter said. “If you’re open, we’re going to get you the ball. And with his athleticism and his ability to finish around the rim, we wanted to take advantage of his skills.”

New Jersey built a 20-point lead in the first half and led by 25 at the end of three, enabling Carter and Kidd to start the fourth quarter on the bench. They had to return to the game when Sarunas Jasikevicius’ 3-pointer pulled Indiana to within 15 (95-80) with less than six minutes remaining.

Enter Moore, who scored five consecutive points which, combined with Carter’s fifth 3-pointer of the game, helped New Jersey keep a comfortable cushion.

“We got beat soundly the first three quarters,” Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said. “The guys who played the fourth won the quarter by 15, but we never got within striking distance to be in position to be in the game. It’s disappointing because we made some significant strides over the last week to 10 days. Today we took a step back.”

Al Harrington had 18 points for Indiana, which lost its second straight game after winning three in a row.

Kidd continued to excel in the face of mounting off-court distractions surrounding his marriage. The All-Star point guard filed for divorce from wife Joumana last Tuesday, and both he and his wife have filed restraining orders against each other recently.

In his last three games, Kidd has averaged 22 points and 11 assists. On Monday he finished with 10 assists and nine rebounds.

“He’s having as good a year as he’s ever had,” Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. “He’s sending a great message to his teammates, that no matter what happens to you, it’s your responsibility to the group to stand up and be counted.”

Notes

The Nets scored a season-high 35 first-quarter points. Their high for all quarters is 43 in the fourth quarter of a 161-157 double-overtime loss to Phoenix on Dec. 7 … A statue of Carter will be unveiled at Daytona Beach, Fla.’s Mainland High School, his alma mater, on Feb. 3 … Wesley Autrey, the Harlem construction worker who saved a 19-year-old man who had fallen onto subway tracks in New York on Jan. 2, was honored by the Nets at center court before the game and at halftime.

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Monday, Jan 15