New Jersey 112, Chicago 103

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., Oct. 31 (AP) -- Antoine Wright has learned to deal with rejection very well.

Told by the New Jersey Nets last week that they won't be picking up the option on his contract next year, Wright started his walk year by making a statement.

Wright scored 14 of his career-high 21 points in the fourth quarter and overtime to lead the Nets to a 112-103 victory over the distracted Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night.

"I am a little excited,'' Wright said. "I am looking at this as an opportunity to show people I can be consistent and play every night. At the end of the year, hopefully everything will take care of itself.''

Wright spent $25,000 this summer to work out three times daily on his overall game at a camp in Las Vegas, and it certainly paid off.

"For him to have a game like this on opening night to save us, I'm just happy for him,'' Frank said. "It's nice to see him have a big game like this and hopefully, he'll have more like this.''

Richard Jefferson, who battled injuries in recent years, added 29 points and 10 rebounds as the Nets won their 12th straight against the Bulls in New Jersey. Vince Carter had 24 points and a big steal late and Jason Kidd handed out 13 assists.

Kidd was impressed with Wright, whose previous high was 16 points last season.

"I think it gives him confidence and puts him on the radar,'' Kidd said. "He played extremely well.''

The Bulls struggled at times in the season opener, the possible victims of rumors of a major trade with the Lakers for Kobe Bryant.

Ben Gordon had 27 points and Luol Deng added 22 points and 11 rebounds for the Bulls, who rallied from a 17-point second-half deficit to force the overtime.

"There's never a deadline when it comes to trades,'' Deng said. "I guess I have to learn to expect that for the rest of my career. There's always someone who wants you. I didn't think it really bothered us.''

Wright gave the Nets a 99-96 lead with a 3-pointer from the left corner less than a minute into the overtime.

Andres Nocioni, whose 3-pointer with 40 seconds to play tied the game at 96, got Chicago within a point with a jumper.

The teams traded two baskets apiece over the next three minutes with Ben Wallace getting Chicago within 103-102 with a dunk on a nice pass from Kirk Hinrich with 1:38 to play.

Jefferson then hit a floater and Carter, who was a woeful 6-of-21 from the field, stole a weak pass by Wallace near the foul line.

Jefferson nailed a 3-pointer with 37 seconds to play to push the Nets' lead to 108-102 and he blocked a shot to end the Bulls' chances.

Chicago rallied from a seven-point deficit over the final 1:31 to force the overtime. The Bulls even had a chance to win in regulation after Carter threw up the Nets' third straight air ball with just under 20 seconds to play.

Gordon took the inbound pass and held the ball. He eventually was forced out on the right wing and got off a bad shot.

Hinrich, who finished with 14 points on a foul-plagued night, hit a floater to get the Bulls within 96-91 with 1:31 to go.

After Carter threw up an air ball from the right corner, Deng put in the rebound of a miss by Gordon to cut the lead to three points.

It was Kidd's turn to hit air on the Nets' next possession. Nocioni tied the game with a 3-pointer with 40 seconds to go.

Until the rally, Wright was going to be the hero. He hit two 3-pointers around two baskets by Carter and two free throws by Jefferson in a 12-2 spurt that gave New Jersey a 96-89 lead with 2:02 to play in regulation.

The Nets hit 37 of 41 free throws in the game, while Chicago was 19-of-26. Jefferson hit all 12 of his attempts from the line.

"It was definitely a good effort, but we just waited too long to turn it on for some reason,'' Gordon said. "We have to be more consistent. We should have had more energy to come out on opening night. There's no excuse for that.''

Notes: Celebrities in attendance included Chris Rock, Donald Trump and part-owner and rapper Jay-Z. ... Carter had to leave the floor for about a minute in the third quarter after being hit in the face. ... Wallace finished with seven points and five rebounds in 37 minutes. ... Nets C Nenad Krstic had 10 points in his first game since hurting his knee on Dec. 22.

Copyright 2007 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited