Originally created 12/12/04

Kidd returns in Nets win over Hawks



ATLANTA - Richard Jefferson didn't care that Jason Kidd failed to assist on a basket for the first time in his 11-year career.

Kidd's return from a knee injury has given New Jersey a big boost.

"If you look at the games that he's been back, my scoring in the second half has increased because he gets other people involved," Jefferson said. "He makes it easier for other people. In the second half, I have a little bit more legs."

Jefferson scored 19 of his 21 points in the second half, and Travis Best, starting in Kidd's place, had a season-high 21 to lead the Nets to a 95-90 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night.

Kidd, who played 17 minutes, hit five of six free throws in the final 33.4 seconds. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Kidd had an assist in each of his first 796 games, including 33 in the playoffs, before Saturday night.

Kidd, who played the final 7:47, finished with four turnovers and was just 1-for-5 from the floor. He had nine points and no assists. New Jersey is 3-1 since Kidd returned.

"I don't have much feel for the game," Kidd said. "I want to try to speed it up."

New Jersey coach Lawrence Frank projected that Kidd, who has the fourth-best assist average in league history, would play only 18 minutes after he went a season-high 28 in an overtime victory over New Orleans on Friday night. He had eight points, five rebounds and eight assists against the Hornets.

Frank knows Kidd needs time before he feels comfortable.

"Late in the game, where most point guards have a tendency to slow down, he's getting push-passes to Richard," Frank said. "He's always attacking, and he forces guys to run and I think he keeps the pace going."

Antoine Walker led the Hawks with 25 points and 13 rebounds. Atlanta committed 20 turnovers, leading to 28 points for New Jersey.

The Hawks lived up to their billing as the NBA's worst free-throw team, hitting just 12 of 21.

Eric Williams scored 20 points for the Nets, who took their biggest lead when Jefferson's 3-pointer from the left wing made it 74-62 with 8:38 remaining.

Though Kidd played only 5 minutes in the third quarter, Williams thought his presence elevated the Nets.

"Jason makes it easier and gives us a level of confidence on the floor, knowing that he's on the team," Williams said. "But we're out here getting repetition. In the beginning, we were like robots, trying to understand this offenses and trying to run the play all the way through and not understanding when open shots are there, take 'em, starting to recognize open shots, just playing regular basketball."

Al Harrington had 21 points before fouling out for Atlanta, which dropped to 2-9 at home, including a 1-6 mark against Eastern Conference teams.

The Hawks had won two of three after beating the Pistons in Detroit Friday night.

"We have to be more consistent," Harrington said. "Until we figure out how to do that, we just have to keep working hard, play good defense and not be selfish with the ball."

Jefferson grabbed eight rebounds for the Nets.

Notes: Alonzo Mourning didn't make the trip with New Jersey and missed his second straight game with hip, knee, hand and leg injuries. Brian Scalabrine started in his place for the second straight night.... Rookie G Josh Smith, the 17th overall pick, started his second straight game for the Hawks in place of Kenny Anderson. Smith had 11 points, including two left-handed dunks from the right baseline in the fourth quarter.