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CARTER GOES OFF AS NETS BEST CELTICS, 99-86

Making a pregame speech about being ready for the opening tipoff wasn't enough for Vince Carter. His contribution to the New Jersey Nets' playoff push was a career-best quarter and almost a career-best game.

Carter outscored the Boston Celtics, 24-19, in the first quarter en route to a season-best 45 points, leading the Nets to a 99-86 victory Saturday afternoon.

"With these last six or seven games I am just trying to take it up one more notch," Carter said after the Nets won for the 11th time in 14 games. "I am just trying to get everyone to focus in a little more. I am just trying to grab and pull everything out of each player to commit to these last couple of games. I think we are capable of being in the playoffs. If you get in you never know what can happen."

Jason Kidd added a season-high 17 assists and rookie center Nenad Krstic had 17 points.

The Nets (38-39) have five games to play in their bid to catch Philadelphia or Cleveland for the final playoff spot in the East.

"If everybody is together and everybody is focused, we're a pretty tough team to beat," Carter said. "From the time I woke up until game time, the same thing ran through my head. I wanted to make sure everyone was in it. With a team like Boston, it's important for us to play our best basketball early."

Paul Pierce had 16 points to lead the Celtics, who saw coach Doc Rivers get ejected after just 1:41 for arguing a call with referee Tim Donaghy. The good news for Rivers was he didn't have to watch Carter beat his team.

The All-Star finished 18 of 32 from the field, including 7 of 9 from three-point range. He hit his first six shots and 9 of 10, including all five three-pointers, in the first quarter as New Jersey took a 37-19 lead.

"I hit a few of them and just felt good," said Carter, who felt his shooting range was limitless Saturday. "Once I got confident I tried to get where I could be effective."

With Carter hitting almost everything, Kidd said his job was easy -- just give Carter the ball, something he did a dozen times for assists.

"When he is going like that, you don't want to get out of his way. You want to be right there to help him out when they come to double," Kidd said. "But it didn't matter if they double-teamed. He was just going to shoot over people this afternoon and he did that."

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