The young Toronto Raptors surprised the veteran New Jersey Nets during the 2006-07 regular season. The Nets' experience, however, proved too much for the Raptors to overcome in the playoffs.
The last two Atlantic Division winners face off Friday at the IZOD Center in a playoff rematch from last season.
New Jersey has won the division four of the last six years, but was a disappointing 41-41 last season, finishing second to the surprising Raptors, who went 47-35. The Nets were able to get their revenge in the playoffs, ousting Toronto from the first round in six games after an outstanding series by Vince Carter and Jason Kidd.
Carter averaged 25.0 for the series against his former team, while Kidd posted a triple-double average of 14.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 13.2 assists.
The 30-year-old Carter and 34-year-old Kidd opened the Nets season on Wednesday with an uneven performance in a 112-103 overtime win over the Chicago Bulls.
Carter had 24 points, nine rebounds and six assists while Kidd scored seven points on just 2-of-4 shooting. He also had eight rebounds and 13 assists over 41 minutes.
Richard Jefferson led the Nets with 29 points and 10 rebounds.
While Kidd's performance was far below his usual standards, Antoine Wright came off the bench to score a career-high 21 points to make up for it. Wright, who was told by the Nets last week that the option on his contract would not be picked up, scored 14 of his points over the fourth quarter and overtime.
"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."
New Jersey blew a 17-point second-half lead to allow Chicago to force overtime. The Nets quickly took control in the extra period and Jefferson hit a 3-pointer to give New Jersey a six-point lead with 37 seconds left.
"We got different guys on different nights that will carry the load for us. We let the lead get away from us, but we never panicked," Kidd said.
The Raptors also opened their season with a win, beating the Philadelphia 76ers 106-97 on Wednesday.
Point guards T.J. Ford and Jose Calderon showed they plan to pick up where they left off last season. Ford had 14 points and 12 assists, Calderon added 13 points and four assists, and each had only one turnover.
"I think that's how it has to be all year," Ford said. "When we play well, the guys are able to get open and guys will continue to have that confidence."
Ford, who averaged a career-high 14.0 points last season, and Calderon, who averaged 8.7 points and 5.0 assists, were two of the only Raptors players who consistently played well during the postseason series against the Nets.
On Wednesday, there was plenty of offensive support. Andrea Bargnani scored 20 points, Chris Bosh added 16 and Anthony Parker had 13.
Bosh, who missed 12 games last December because of a knee problem and was hampered by the injury during the preseason, was 6-of-14 from the field. He also had four rebounds and two blocked shots, playing 26 minutes.
"It felt good to be back out there, but I'm not up to 30 minutes a game yet, so I just have to be patient with the whole situation," Bosh said.
The Raptors have lost six straight in New Jersey, including three playoff games.
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