Nets Tries to End Skid Against Heavy Public Favorite Lakers

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Although coach Lawrence Frank's unusual strategy did not end the New Jersey Nets' losing streak, it surely got his players' attention.

The Nets will try to end their four-game skid when they finish a four-game road trip against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on Sunday.

Oddsmakers have made LA Lakers -4 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for tonights game, the over/under has been set at 192 total points (View NBA Sports Books).

With his team facing a 19-point deficit entering the fourth quarter at Phoenix on Friday, Frank benched his starters, including Jason Kidd and Vince Carter, and watched his reserves whittle the Suns' lead to three with 21 seconds left.

``It was pretty obvious why he left them in,'' Carter said. ``They had great energy, they were getting stops and were really playing together. They really played great. I'm not mad about it at all. I'm all about winning, and that unit gave us something tonight.''

Rookie Marcus Williams keyed the late surge, scoring 21 of his 27 points in the quarter, including 13 in a row to get the Nets within 96-93. Steve Nash, though, sealed the win with three free throws as Phoenix won 99-93.

``I got a couple of stops, I got a couple of baskets, and I got some confidence,'' said Williams, averaging 8.3 points this season.

Carter finished with 23 points, but played only 29.5 seconds of the fourth quarter. Kidd had seven points on 3-of-12 shooting with eight rebounds and five assists before sitting out the fourth.

``That group that finished the game deserves a great deal of credit in their fight,'' Frank said. ``We were going to either win or lose with that group, because they earned it.''

Frank's team was outscored by a combined 25 points in the fourth quarter of its previous two games, mostly with the starters on the floor.

The Nets (5-7) are in danger of dropping five in a row for the first time since a nine-game skid from Nov. 10-28, 2004.

New Jersey, the Atlantic Division champion four of the past five years, has started slowly for the fourth straight season. It was 9-12 last year, 2-11 in 2004-05 and 7-11 in 2003-04.

Starting forward Richard Jefferson, who recently missed five games with a sprained left ankle, took a step back Friday after a strong performance at Portland on Tuesday. He was limited to six points on 2-of-8 from the field with four turnovers in 31 minutes.

The Lakers (8-4) couldn't protect a seven-point fourth-quarter lead and had their four-game win streak stopped with a 114-108 loss Friday at Utah, owner of the NBA's best record.

Kobe Bryant led Los Angeles with 27 points, but went 0-for-3 from the field in the fourth. The Lakers were 6-of-17 from the floor and outrebounded 16-4 in the final period.

The Jazz dominated the Lakers on the glass 45-27, and outscored them 23-9 on second-chance points.

``I told them they had nothing to be ashamed of except that rebound total when they look at it,'' Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.

With their four-game overall win streak over, Los Angeles will focus on extending a four-game home win streak Sunday. Only Utah, at 7-0, owns a better home record than the Lakers, who are 7-1.

Friday's loss was the Lakers' only true road game between Nov. 10 and Dec. 10. Of their 14 games in that span, 12 are at home while the only road contests are against Utah and the Clippers at Staples Center on Dec. 2.

Bryant scored 46 points the last time these teams met in Los Angeles on Nov. 27, but the Nets won 102-96 in overtime.

New Jersey has won six of nine overall and two straight on the road in this series.

By: Marc Young - - Email Us

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