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Fans hold up signs during the fourth quarter of the Nets' loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
Fans hold up signs during the fourth quarter of the Nets' loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

New low for New Jersey

The New Jersey Nets' miserable start to the year hit a new low on Wednesday as they lost their 18th successive game of the season.

The New Jersey Nets' miserable start to the year hit a new low on Wednesday as they lost their 18th successive game of the season. The Dallas Mavericks delivered the killing blow this time as they shot down the Nets 117-101. The Mavs made 17 of 19 shots and opened a 27-point lead in a stellar second quarter, putting the Nets on the road to infamy early in the game. The Nets passed the 1988-89 Miami Heat and 1998-99 Los Angeles Clippers, who both dropped their first 17 games. New Jersey's next chance to end the streak comes tonight when they host Charlotte.

The Nets, who have been praised for their competitive fire in the midst of an injury-plagued season, looked doomed in this one. Dallas shot 81 per cent in the first half, the first NBA team to make 80 per cent of their shots in a half since Denver hit 82 per cent against the Clippers in April 2006. "At this point, I feel the streak has definitely gotten the best of us," guard Chris Douglas-Roberts said. "So when a team go on a run it's almost like we give up, which is really unfortunate, but that's what it looks like to me. We kind of give up and just lay down instead of trying to fight."

Tom Barrise, who took over on an interim basis from sacked Lawrence Frank on Sunday, coached one more game, although the Nets have said general manager Kiki Vandeweghe will assume the coaching duties tonight. Vandeweghe handled the pre-game coach's meeting with the media, then sat in a seat above centre court with Del Harris, the former Dallas assistant who will join him on the bench. New Jersey kept it close in the first quarter, but the Mavericks' lights-out shooting in the second period saw them pull away.

"We came out with great energy, great defensive effort in the first quarter and then we have two steps back in the second quarter, giving up 49 points and them shooting 81 per cent in the first half," Nets point guard Devin Harris said. "The second half was good, but that's too tall of a mountain to climb obviously from a team who have been struggling." Elsewhere, the Atlanta Hawks enjoyed their best offensive night in 16 years as they thrashed the struggling Toronto Raptors 146-115, while Kevin Durant scored 33 points and as the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Philadelphia 76ers 117-106.

Earl Boykins scored 11 of his 13 points in the final 10 minutes, including the winning free throws with a second left, as the Washington Wizards beat the Milwaukee Bucks 104-102, while Orlando Magic made it nine wins from 10 games as they beat the New York Knicks 118-104. The Cleveland Cavaliers saw off the Phoenix Suns 107-90, while the Memphis Grizzlies came from behind to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 97-95.

The Chicago Bulls ended a five-game losing streak by beating the Detroit Pistons 92-85, while the Sacramento Kings made it four wins on the trot as they beat the Indiana Pacers 110-105. Aaron Brooks led the way with 22 points for the Houston Rockets as they defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 102-85. * With agencies

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