- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 10, 2002

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. The Washington Wizards all but assured that their next visit here will be for the NBA Draft lottery.
Last night at Continental Airlines Arena, league MVP candidate Jason Kidd jump-started the New Jersey Nets to their 50th victory the most in franchise history by notching 21 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds in a 101-88 rout of Washington.
With the victory, the Nets, who joined the league in the 1976 ABA-NBA merger, clinched their first Atlantic Division title a year after winning 26 games.
"The good thing is that there is no champagne popping," said Kidd, who finished with one more assist than the Wizards. "We've had a great season, but now everyone wants to keep on playing and keep on winning. I don't think anyone suspected this. I don't think anyone expected that we would put the team together and win like we have. But it clicked from day one for us."
Kidd was acquired from the Phoenix Suns last summer for Stephon Marbury.
The Nets, tops in the Atlantic all season, now are playing for the best record in the Eastern Conference with the playoffs less than two weeks away.
"My hat's off to [Nets coach] Byron Scott," said Wizards coach Doug Collins, an assistant at Arizona State when Scott played there. "They've done a magnificent job. They are what we want to become. They went from struggling to winning the division. There's a lot to be said about that."
Meanwhile, the Wizards (35-43) have all but fallen off the playoff radar. Losers of five of their last six games, the Wizards fell 4 games behind Toronto, an 84-80 winner over Charlotte.
What this means for the Wizards, winners of just nine games in the second half of the season, is that they must win all four of their remaining games to have a shot at reaching the playoffs. A loss tonight at home against the Philadelphia 76ers will result in their elimination from contention.
After spending the entire night being outclassed by the Nets, the Wizards seemed like a team that expects to miss the playoffs for the fifth season in a row.
"It's time to play the young guys and get them in games so they know what it's like to compete at the highest level," Collins said. "I'm glad they are getting a chance to play against a team like this rather than a team that is thinking their season is over. You don't want to be out there against a team that is playing for nothing."
Kidd, serenaded by the 18,554 in attendance with chants of "MVP, MVP," when the Nets raised the lead to 75-51 with 6:13 left in the third quarter, left the game for good about four minutes later and wasn't needed again.
The same was true for the rest of the Nets' starters.
Former Wizards reserve Aaron Williams contributed 19 points and six rebounds in 29 minutes for New Jersey. Kenyon Martin added 13 points, and Kerry Kittles pitched in with 12.
With the Nets in control from the start, Collins was reduced to playing the young players who likely represent the team's future Kwame Brown, Tyronn Lue and Etan Thomas in the second half.
Lue and Richard Hamilton each scored 14 points to lead the Wizards. Brown and Chris Whitney had 12 apiece.
The Nets outscored the Wizards 23-2 in fastbreak points, and they forced 15 turnovers. Washington's starters made just 10 field goals.
Kidd set the tone early, slashing through the Wizards' defense in the first quarter for 11 points, five boards and five assists.
That enabled New Jersey to forge a 28-18 lead after one quarter.
Conversely, Wizards starters Alexander, Hamilton and Laettner combined to shoot 3-for-13 from the field in the first half.
Kidd's 14 points at halftime led all scorers.
Williams came off the bench to score 11 points, and Martin added eight.
In the first half, Washington continued to be mired in the poor shooting that has been a mainstay since the All-Star break. Washington connected on 15 of 40 attempts (37.5 percent) before halftime.

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