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Carter's offensive fireworks lead Nets

Minus their playmaking all-star point guard, the Nets' playoff aspirations were supposed to be on life support.

No Devin Harris, who's out indefinitely with a sprained left shoulder and a strained deltoid muscle, should mean the Nets' chances of earning a postseason spot are about as likely as navigating your way through Penn Station at rush hour without bumping into anyone.

"It's tough," Jarvis Hayes said. " You lose an all-star point guard and obviously you lose his production to this team and his leadership to this team. That would hurt any team, not just our team. But we've got capable guys. From a psyche standpoint, you've just got to pick up the pieces because that's the game of basketball. You have injuries you don't foresee that you have to deal with and move on to still try to get the job done."

The Nets certainly still had enough to get the job done last night against the Knicks, thanks mostly to Vince Carter's incredible lights-out display. Carter's dazzling offensive repertoire drew oohs and aahs from the Garden crowd and his dizzying array of jumpers and dunks left the Knicks in a daze.

Carter scored 21 first-half points on the way to a 29-point evening in the Nets' 115-89 win over the Knicks, which moved them to within two games of eighth place in the Eastern Conference. He hit 11 of 16, including 5-for-9 from downtown, and had five rebounds and two assists.

Whether it was Larry Hughes or Wilson Chandler guarding him, Carter was virtually unstoppable.

He rattled off 19 straight points during one stretch - a streak that began with a layup with 2:12 left in the first quarter - and almost single-handedly trounced the Knicks in the second quarter, turning a 23-20 deficit into a 37-27 cushion.

"It's an amazing feeling when you go down and anything you shoot is pretty much going in," Carter said. "Once I felt that I was in a groove, I shot the ball with confidence."

Carter buried four threes and had an old-school three-point play in his 17-point second quarter outburst, proving he can still step up his game when need be, just what the Nets need with Harris out.

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