EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - With Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin playing well and interim coach Lawrence Frank making all the right moves, the New Jersey Nets are starting to resemble the best team in the Eastern Conference again.
Martin matched his season high with 29 points, Kidd had his 57th career triple-double and the Nets played stellar fourth-quarter defense to give Frank his seventh straight victory in a 99-87 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night.
“If we can go out and defend the way we did in the fourth quarter, we are not going to lose too many of these games,” Martin said after the Nets nailed down their eighth straight double-digit victory by holding the 76ers to 14 fourth-quarter points.
Frank, who replaced the fired Byron Scott as coach of the two-time defending Eastern Conference champions, moved within two wins of tying the NBA record for the best coaching start. Kurt Rambis of the Lakers (1998-99) and Buddy Jeannette of the Baltimore Bullets (1947-48) each started their careers 9-0.
Frank’s biggest move came in the fourth quarter when he adjusted the defense on Allen Iverson, forcing the 76ers’ point guard to go over the top on pick and rolls. The result was 1-for-6 shooting in the final quarter with the game on the line.
“The fourth-quarter defensive effort was tremendous,” Frank said.
Kidd finished with 14 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. He has seven triple-doubles this season, and moved within two of tying Larry Bird for fourth place overall in the category.
Kidd also set the tone for the game, pushing the ball in transition in the second half. That helped Martin get loose for 19 points after intermission and sent Philadelphia to its eighth loss in 10 games.
“Anytime you have a team playing back to back, I wanted to force our tempo and make it more a track meet,” Kidd said. “We just wanted to get control of the game and that’s the way we get control by dictating the pace.”
Richard Jefferson added 14 points and Kerry Kittles had 12 as the Nets had six players in double figures.
Iverson had 27 points and eight assists for Philadelphia, but he wasn’t a major factor, shooting 6-of-21 from the field. Samuel Dalembert had 16 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks for the 76ers.
The 76ers had only one basket in the final 7:36, missing nine straight shots. The only basket was a layup in the closing seconds.
“We just stopped making shots,” Iverson said. “We really couldn’t get into a rhythm the whole game. Dog (Glenn Robinson) couldn’t catch a rhythm because of foul trouble. I started off bad. When both of us are struggling, it’s going to be tough for the team.”
The Nets broke the game open with a 20-7 run bridging the end of the third quarter and the start of the fourth, opening an 86-73 lead on two free throws by Martin.
Philadelphia cut the lead to 91-85 on two free throws by Iverson with 4:04 to play but Kidd hit a jumper and fed Aaron Williams for two baskets inside to put the game away.
Iverson said there is some dissension building on the 76ers, who lost to Boston by 30 points on Saturday.
“It’s not to the degree that it can be,” Iverson said. “I don’t feel it’s out of control. You always hear some bickering. Once you start losing and everything’s going wrong, then everyone has their own opinion.”
Notes: Philadelphia starting forward Glenn Robinson sat at the end of the bench in the first half, sulking over three fouls and two shots. He finished with nine points. ... The 76ers are 1-8 on the road in the second game of back-to-back games. ... Nets starting center Jason Collins missed the game because of a sore toe.
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