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RAPTORS LOCK UP COACH, CUT DOWN NETS

The Toronto Raptors agreed to a contract extension with coach Butch Carter, then the team went out and improved upon the best start franchise history by blowing out the New Jersey Nets, 116-87.

Doug Christie, who missed four games with a sprained right ankle, scored 14 of his 20 points in the first quarter as the Raptors snapped a three-game losing streak.

"The shots were falling. We moved the ball around extremely well and that's what you need to have night in and night out, consistency," said Christie who went 4 for 9 from behind the arc in 23 minutes. "(The ankle) is still a little sore and it's probably going to be a season-long nagging thing, but I'm just going to have to work through it."

Carter, whose contract was extended through the 2002-03 season, broke Darrell Walker's club record for victories by a head coach with his 42nd against 66 losses.

Toronto was the most improved team in the NBA last season, finishing 23-27 after posting a 16-66 record in 1997-98.

"We have definitely made strides since I've been here, but we still have a lot to accomplish," said Carter, who replaced Darrell Walker as coach of the Raptors midway through the 1997-98 season.

Toronto led by as many as 37 points.

Hornets lose Jones

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Charlotte Hornets will be without top scorer and NBA steals leader Eddie Jones for up to a quarter of the season because of an elbow injury.

Jones has a torn ligament in his left elbow and will be sidelined 3-6 weeks, said Dr. Glenn Perry, the Hornets' physician. He will miss from 10 to 21 games.

In addition to leading the NBA with 2.83 steals per game, Jones averages 19.4 points and 37.8 minutes, both tops on the Hornets.

Spurs overcome Kidd

SAN ANTONIO -- Phoenix Suns guard Jason Kidd insists that getting triple-doubles is all about luck.

Even though Phoenix had its four-game winning streak come to end with a 91-90 overtime loss to the San Antonio Spurs, Kidd again led a Suns charge, posting his third triple-double in four games with 15 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. It was his 29th career triple-double, moving him ahead of Michael Jordan and into sixth place on the NBA list.

"It's a lot of luck," Kidd said. "I'm just trying to help the big guys rebound. Even though we lost, we had a great time out there."

Phoenix was without guard Penny Hardaway, who was placed on the injured list because of plantar fasciatis.

A steal by Mario Elie led to his game-deciding free throw with 3.1 seconds remaining in overtime, breaking a 90-90 tie.

Former Spurs forward Sean Elliott, who underwent a kidney transplant last summer, has been hospitalized with the flu but is expected to be released today.

Around the rim

Scottie Pippen, booed by Houston fans every time he touched the ball, had 13 points, eight assists and eight rebounds as the Trail Blazers beat the Rockets, 89-79. Pippen was traded to the Blazers by the Rockets in the offseason. . . . Mitch Richmond scored a season-high 33 points to overcome the ejection of point guard Rod Strickland and lead the Wizards to a 97-83 victory over the Pistons. . . . Reggie Miller scored 31 points and Jalen Rose had 19 for the Pacers in a 113-103 win over the SuperSonics. Seattle's Gary Payton, who had 12 assists, scored 28 points. . . . Jason Williams scored a career-high 28 points as the Kings snapped a three-game losing streak by defeating the Bucks, 108-95. Chris Webber of the Kings missed his second straight game with a strained neck.

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