If only the New Jersey Nets played the Charlotte Bobcats more often.
The NBA's worst team got 21 points from Courtney Lee, 17 from Devin Harris and the Nets never trailed in beating Charlotte 103-94 on Tuesday night for only their fifth win of the season.
Sure, the Nets are 3-47 against the league's 28 other teams. But they're 2-1 against Charlotte, which began the night in sixth place in the Eastern Conference. The Bobcats were also was the first team to lose to New Jersey after its record 0-18 start.
"I have no idea," said Brook Lopez when asked to explain their mastery over a potential playoff team. "But I don't mind it at all."
Lopez scored 16 points before fouling out for the energized Nets (5-48), who snapped an eight-game losing streak, improved to 2-27 on the road and moved ahead of the pace of the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers, who finished an all-time NBA-worst 9-73.
Not a bad way to return from the all-star break.
"I really think everybody really just got away from it and kind of refocused and forgot about the first part of the season," said Harris, who spent the time off at Disney World. "Guys came in ready to play and ready to go."
That certainly wasn't the case for the Bobcats (26-26), who spent the night watching the Nets get easy layups and dunks in a dismal effort that led to pockets of boos from their sparse home crowd.
"It was an embarrassing performance. We didn't compete," said all-star Gerald Wallace, who got into early foul trouble. "They did, their confidence got going and they started making shots."
Elsewhere in the NBA: Oklahoma 99 Dallas 86; Miami 105 Philadelphia 78; Chicago 118 New York 85; Detroit 108 Minnesota 85; Phoenix 109 Memphis 95; Utah 104 Houston 95; Boston 95 Sacramento 92; Portland 109 L.A. Clippers 87; and L.A. Lakers 104 Golden State 94.
At Charlotte, N.C., Wallace had 21 points and 10 rebounds and Boris Diaw had 19 points and 10 rebounds, but the Bobcats allowed the NBA's worst-shooting and lowest-scoring team to shoot 52 per cent.
It led to a sombre atmosphere in the Charlotte locker-room. Even the TV was turned off.
"Everybody is really down because it was the Nets, but they are an NBA team," said Stephen Jackson, who scored 15 points but hit only seven of 20 shots. "We didn't respect them and they came in and played a better game than we did. They played harder, they made shots."
Kris Humphries' jumper and dunk in the first 90 seconds of the fourth quarter put New Jersey ahead 88-75.
The Bobcats could never make a significant run, and Lopez's dunk with 4:22 left made it 96-86. After the Bobcats cut the lead to 98-93 and with Lopez on the bench with six fouls, Jarvis Hayes hit a three-pointer with 58 seconds left to put it away.
Harris added nine assists and six rebounds and the Nets placed five players in double figures in a rare solid offensive performance. New Jersey came in averaging 89.8 points and 42 per cent shooting from the field.
The Bobcats, who needed late-game heroics to beat struggling Washington and Minnesota in the two games before the all-star break, couldn't mount a comeback this time.
"I told our coaches early in the game that I've seen this the last three weeks," Bobcats coach Larry Brown said. "I think we've lost a lot of defensive intensity."
Thunder 99 Mavericks 86
At Oklahoma City, Kevin Durant had 25 points and 14 rebounds, rookie reserve James Harden added 17 points as the Thunder beat new-look Dallas to stretch their winning streak to seven games.
Caron Butler scored 13 points and helped Dallas build an early 12-point lead after coming over in a weekend trade from Washington, but he finished 4-for-16 from the field and Oklahoma City charged ahead in the second half.
Heat 105 76ers 78
At Philadelphia, Dwyane Wade scored 24 points as the Miami Heat cruised past the 76ers.
Jermaine O'Neal added 20 points for Miami, which won its third straight.
Philadelphia welcomed back Allen Iverson, who returned after missing five games to help care for his ill daughter, Messiah.
Bulls 118 Knicks 85
At Chicago, Derrick Rose made it look easy despite a bruised right hip, hitting his first nine shots and scoring 29 points to lead the Bulls over New York.
Still sore from a hard foul by Orlando's Dwight Howard last week, Rose shook it off with a dominant performance as the Bulls matched their most lopsided win of the season and handed the Knicks their fourth straight loss and 13th in 17 games.
Rose buried all seven shots while scoring 15 in the first quarter and was 14-for-18 in all, just missing his sixth 30-point game.
Pistons 108 Timberwolves 85
At Auburn Hills, Mich., Jonas Jerebko led a balanced offence with 21 points as Detroit pulled away in the second half to beat Minnesota.
Detroit won for the third time in four games, while Minnesota dropped its third in a row. The Timberwolves fell to 4-26 on the road.
The Pistons had five players in double figures and got at least two points from all 12. Kevin Love paced Minnesota with 22 points and 15 rebounds.
Suns 109 Grizzlies 95
At Memphis, Tenn., Jason Richardson scored 27 points and Amare Stoudemire added 21 points and 10 rebounds as Phoenix won its sixth game in the last seven with a victory over the Grizzlies.
Richardson was 12-of-17 from the field in the Suns' fifth straight road victory. Robin Lopez finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Victoria's Steve Nash had 16 assists for the Suns.
Rudy Gay led Memphis with 21 points and Zach Randolph had 18 points and 15 rebounds. The Grizzlies lost their fifth straight.
Jazz 104 Rockets 95
At Houston, Deron Williams scored 17 points and dished out 15 assists, Mehmet Okur scored 21 points and the Utah Jazz continued their mid-season surge with a win over the Rockets.
Paul Millsap scored 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, helping the Jazz win for the 14th time in 16 games. Utah finished with 30 assists to offset 21 turnovers.
Backup centre David Andersen and Aaron Brooks scored 18 points apiece for Houston, which committed a season-high 24 turnovers.
Celtics 95 Kings 92
At Sacramento, Calif., Rasheed Wallace and Paul Pierce each scored 17 points, and the Boston Celtics held off the Sacramento Kings.
The victory snapped a two-game losing streak for the Celtics, who had lost five of eight games before the all-star break. Boston is 10-13 since Christmas and has seen its Atlantic Division lead shrink to 4 1/2 games over second-place Toronto.
Omri Casspie scored 19 points, Tyreke Evans had 17 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists, and Jason Thompson added 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Kings, who have dropped 19 of 23 games since Dec. 28.
Trail Blazers 109 Clippers 87
At Portland, Ore., Martell Webster scored 28 points and LaMarcus Aldridge added 22 as the Portland Trail Blazers cruised to a victory over the Los Angeles Clippers a few hours after the teams made a deal Tuesday night.
Portland's Brandon Roy, who missed 15 games because of a pulled right hamstring, shot 2-of-7 and scored four points in 15 minutes during the first half, but sat out the second half due to a recurrence of the hamstring injury.
Earlier Tuesday, Portland and Los Angeles made a three-player trade in which the Blazers acquired six-foot-11 centre Marcus Camby in exchange for guard Steve Blake and forward Travis Outlaw. Camby was averaging 7.7 points and 12 rebounds a game for the Clippers this season. None of the three played.
Lakers 104 Warriors 94
At Los Angeles, Shannon Brown set career highs with 27 points and 10 rebounds while starting in place of the injured Kobe Bryant as the Lakers beat Golden State.
Andrew Bynum added 21 points and seven rebounds in his return to the lineup after missing two games because of a bruised right hip that still gives him discomfort. He was 8-for-11 from the field in 30 minutes.
If only the New Jersey Nets played the Charlotte Bobcats more often.
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