NEW YORK -- Vince Carter played as if he plans to keep the Nets in the playoff race even without his All-Star sidekick.
The Knicks looked like a team destined to spend another postseason at home.
Carter scored 29 points and the Nets salvaged the final game of their otherwise miserable five-game trip with a 115-89 victory over New York on Wednesday night.
"I feel more in a groove," Carter said. "This is the best part of the year, whether you're in first or you're fighting for the seventh or eighth spot. This is what it's all about."
Brook Lopez added 23 points for the Nets, who put up 70 points across the middle two quarters, making 16 of 22 shots (73 percent) in the third, and cruised to a surprisingly easy victory in a game between teams fighting desperately to stay in the playoff race.
"This is what we're going to need, for everyone to take their game to another level because our margin for error is smaller," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said.
The Nets lost the first four games of the trip out West, losing All-Star point guard Devin Harris to a sprained left shoulder along the way. They didn't miss him on this night, shooting 59 percent and getting 17 points from his replacement, Keyon Dooling.
"Our game is a game of injuries. It's a game of timing and all that," Dooling said. "With that being said, we just have to step up."
Al Harrington scored 21 points, and Nate Robinson had 18 points for the Knicks, who went 3-2 on their trip and were opening a stretch where they play five of six at home. But they were never in the game in the second half, booed occasionally in a performance that was so bad that coach Mike D'Antoni gave Demetris Nichols and Cheikh Samb, both on 10-day contracts, their first playing time with the team.
The Knicks wore their green St. Patrick's Day uniforms, the same one Robinson wore when he soared over Dwight Howard to win the All-Star slam dunk contest. But Krypto-Nate and the Knicks were far from super, going 2-for-17 from 3-point range and having as many turnovers (15) as assists while falling three games behind eighth-place Chicago.
"It's very hard to point out one thing. I thought we were horrible in every facet of the game," D'Antoni said. "We just didn't play."
Robinson stayed in starting lineup despite the return of Chris Duhon, who missed the last two games because of a sore ankle and back. But he was only 1-for-7 in the first half and didn't get anything going until the game was essentially decided. Fellow starting guard Larry Hughes was 3-for-11 for his 10 points.
"I could've brought more energy. Tonight was one of those nights where it was kind of weird out there," said Robinson, who D'Antoni said was "just in a fog" early in the game. "But you live and you learn."
Frank said before the game there was no timetable for Harris' return, but insisted his team still had enough to win without him. That might be true if Carter plays the way he did Wednesday.
The Knicks led by three after one quarter, but Carter knocked down consecutive 3-pointers to open the second and give the Nets the lead. He later scored eight straight points on a pair of 3s and a layup to push the lead into double digits and finished with 17 points in the period, helping New Jersey open a 55-44 halftime lead.
The Nets then hit their first four and seven of their first eight shots in the third, extending the lead to 67-48, and it was never close again.
The Nets were without backup center Sean Williams, who was suspended two games for conduct detrimental to the team after he was arrested Monday at a cell phone store in a mall in suburban Denver. ... Knicks rookie Danilo Gallinari has left the team and returned to Italy to see back specialists as he considers surgery. ... The teams will meet again on the last night of the regular season in New York.