Carter backs up his words

yi250_120508.jpgEAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Vince Carter really is the capo of the Nets.
 
He said the Nets had to make the next team pay for their awful showing Tuesday night against Washington and they did. They whacked the Minnesota Timberwolves, 113-84, Friday night in a game they had to win for so many reasons.
 
The Nets were coming off one of the worst losses of the season, a 20-point embarrassment here against the Wizards, the East’s worst team. A loss to the Timberwolves, a bad team, and who knows the effect it would have had when the Nets are Philadelphia on Saturday.
 
Then, if that turned out to be a loss the Nets go from feeling high as a kite after ending the West Coast trip with three straight wins to being lower than the curb with three straight losses on the East Coast against three sub-.500 teams.
 
Fortunately for the Nets, they don’t have to worry about that now because of the collective effort they gave against Minnesota.
 
The Nets placed seven players in double figures for the first time this season, led by Carter’s 18 points, and had another player with eight.
 
They hit a season-best 14 three-pointers on a season-high 28 attempts, and allowed a season-low 84 points. The opponent plays into all those impressive numbers, but if you want to be a good team, you have to beat bad teams and win games you should win, especially at home.
 
So, this was a good sign for the Nets, who need to do all those things to show they’re for real.
 
It was good that they didn’t look at the name on the other team’s jersey and think they had the game won. They took the game, by playing hard and following Carter’s words and actions.
 
“That should be our intent each and every night,” Carter said. “But we have to take baby steps. I made the statement, so, of course I had to go out and back it up.”
 
Carter did.
 
He took seven first-period shots and scored nine points. He and Yi Jianlian set the tone offensively as they combined for 24 of the Nets’ 50 first-half points. They helped the Nets to a 17-point lead in the second quarter.
 
And after the Wolves made it interesting, the Nets came to life in the third period, which is usually when they struggle and usually at home. After being outscored 34-12 in the third by Washington oN Tuesday, the Nets had a 33-25 edge on Minnesota in the third.
 
“We talked about how important that third quarter is and how we had to pick up our energy a little bit,” Devin Harris said. “The third quarter is going to be pivotal for us.
 
“If we can get that kind of effort, especially at home, every third quarter, I think, we’ll be a lot better.”
 
We’ll find out if they can next week when the Nets play the Knicks and Raptors at the Izod Center. They shouldn’t have an energy problem with the Knicks at home.
 
The Nets can win both if they play with the intent they had tonight. They attacked, hustled, didn’t settle, got a big night from Yi (16 points),  tough inside play from Brook Lopez (11 points, 10 rebounds) and didn’t stay in the locker room for the third period.
 
The Nets did everything they’re supposed to do at home — against a bad team — and what they need to do if they want to be a good team. But to really be a good team, the Nets have to do it again and again and again.
 
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)

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