The Nets might never own the hearts of New York basketball fans. They might have to settle for owning the Knicks instead.
While the Knicks are the area's more popular team, their on-court performances pale in comparison to their neighbors from across the Hudson River. That fact was highlighted again Monday night in New Jersey's 104-95 victory.
The Nets won their sixth straight at Madison Square Garden and 10th in the last 11 meetings overall against the Knicks. New Jersey has won 22 of the last 26 in the series, including two victories in the last four nights, and is 20-4 against New York in the regular season since acquiring Jason Kidd.
``I love the setting. This is the best arena in the world,'' Kidd said. ``To bring your 'A' game every time you have the opportunity to play here as a visitor, you always want to shine. We've been very fortunate to be able to do that.''
Their `A' game meant Vince Carter had 29 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists, and the Nets clinched at least the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference. Carter had his second triple-double of the season of fourth of his career. That still leaves him 10 this season behind Kidd, who also had one in the same game Carter had his first.
In other games it was: Houston 120, Phoenix 117; Utah 130, Portland 93; Denver 122, Minnesota 107; Boston 91, Miami 89; Memphis 101, San Antonio 91; New Orleans 125, Sacramento 118; and Milwaukee 102, Atlanta 96.
New Jersey is still hoping to catch struggling Washington for the No. 6 seed and face Atlantic Division champion Toronto in the first round. The Nets (40-41), who have won three straight and five of six, finish their season Wednesday night at home against Chicago.
``We are putting ourselves in a position where we moved up a seed, guaranteed we are at least the seven seed,'' coach Lawrence Frank said. ``Again, the goal is to try and get the best possible seed, and so we are just going to have to keep on moving forward.''
That's not a direction the Knicks have been familiar with lately. They have lost a season-high five straight and need a victory at Charlotte on Wednesday to avoid losing 50 games in consecutive seasons for the first time since doing it three straight times from 1984-87. As the Nets move into the postseason, the Knicks head home once more.
``I can't complain at all about our effort or the intensity that we play with,'' Knicks coach Isiah Thomas said.
Steve Francis scored 26 points and Mardy Collins had 23 for the injury-plagued Knicks.
Rockets 120, Suns 117
At Houston, Tracy McGrady had 39 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists as the Houston Rockets secured home-court advantage in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. Yao Ming added 34 points and nine rebounds for the Rockets, who won their fifth straight game and snapped a six-game losing streak to Phoenix.
Amare Stoudemire scored 30 points and Shawn Marion added 27 for the Suns, who used their starters most of the game even though they had already clinched the No. 2 seed in the West. Steve Nash added 15 points and 15 assists.
Jazz 130, Trail Blazers 93
At Salt Lake City, Carlos Boozer scored 26 points and the Jazz tied a season high for points. Utah won its 50th game of the season, but will still open the playoffs on the road against Houston.
Gordan Giricek scored 21 points after missing the last three games with a sore right side and was one of seven Utah players to score in double figures.
Travis Outlaw had 26 points to lead Portland.
Nuggets 122, Timberwolves 107
At Denver, Allen Iverson scored 25 points, then sat back and watched the reserves close out the Nuggets' ninth win in 10 games.
Linas Kleiza scored 23 points, delighting a spirited section of about 50 Lithuanians decked out in green and gold to cheer on their countryman, who Nuggets coach George Karl credited with making the most strides this season.
Carmelo Anthony added 21 in helping the Nuggets pull away with a 19-4 run in the third quarter.
Randy Foye and Justin Reed led the Timberwolves with 19 points each.
Both teams were without their big man. Kevin Garnett stayed back in Minneapolis with a sore right thigh, and Marcus Camby, the league's leading shot blocker and favorite for Defensive Player of the Year, sat out with a sore right knee.
Celtics 91, Heat 89
At Miami, Al Jefferson's jump hook with one-tenth of a second left lifted the Celtics. Delonte West scored 28 points, while Jefferson finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds for Boston.
Jason Williams hit his first five 3-point tries _ he finished 5-for-6 _ and scored 16 points for Miami. Dwyane Wade had eight points on 3-for-7 shooting in 23 minutes for Miami.
Grizzlies 101, Spurs 91
At Memphis, Pau Gasol scored 25 points,grabbed 15 rebounds and had six assists to lead Memphis.
Both teams were without key players. Spurs Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili took the night off because San Antonio was no longer playing to enhance its third seed in the West. Memphis starters Mike Miller and Damon Stoudamire didn't play because of knee injuries, and rookie Rudy Gay left in the second quarter after aggravating an ankle injury.
Hornets 125, Kings 118
At Sacramento, David West scored 25 points. Rasual Butler tied the game at 114 with a 3-pointer and West put the Hornets ahead for good with a jumper with 3:27 left. Butler's 3-pointer moments later gave the Hornets a five-point lead.
Chris Paul contributed 23 points and 12 assists for New Orleans, while both Bobby Jackson and Devin Brown had 20 points.
Ron Artest had 22 points, seven rebounds and five assists for Sacramento.
Bucks 102, Hawks 96
Mo Williams scored 26 points, Ruben Patterson added 23 and Milwaukee snapped a four-game home losing streak.
The Hawks got 21 points from Marvin Williams and 16 points and 17 rebounds from Shelden Williams in a matchup between the teams with the third- and fourth-worst records in the league.
The Hawks were without a slew of players and even coach Mike Woodson, who missed their final road game with food poisoning. Assistant coach Larry Drew led the team.