New Jersey 96, Toronto 91

TORONTO, April 21 (AP) -- Vince Carter heard boos all afternoon. They couldn't ruin his return to Toronto for the playoffs.

"I didn't come here to worry about the crowd and the response, I came here to win a basketball game,'' Carter said.

Richard Jefferson and Jason Kidd made sure the Nets did just that.

Jefferson scored 28 points, Kidd nearly had a triple-double, and the Nets withstood a fourth-quarter rally to beat the Raptors 96-91 on Saturday in Game 1 of their first-round series.

"Richard is a very talented guy,'' Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "He had a good rhythm to his game. That's what you need in the playoffs.''

Carter, the former Raptors star who was jeered right from the opening introductions, scored 16 points but shot just 5-of-19. But Jefferson stepped up to make 11 of 21 shots, including eight of his first 10. Eleven of his points came in the first quarter.

"RJ's confidence has soared, he's playing phenomenal basketball,'' Carter said. "Our team as a whole trusts each other. We're playing off of each other and it's great. The whole machine is well-oiled. We're feeding off other, trusting each other and that's really the big picture.''

Carter, traded to the Nets in December 2004 after becoming unhappy in Toronto, insisted he wasn't bothered by the negative attention from the sellout crowd of 20,330.

"The first time I wanted to win more than anything. Now you know it's coming, you expect it. It's three years later, let's get over it.''

Kidd fell two points shy of a triple-double, finishing with 15 assists and 10 rebounds. He had eight assists in the first quarter.

"He's a Hall of Famer,'' Frank said. "The Nets didn't start winning until Jason Kidd came here six years ago, so obviously we are very fortunate. He's a huge reason for our success.''

Chris Bosh led Toronto with 22 points while T.J. Ford scored 21. Anthony Parker scored 16 points and added nine assists for the Raptors.

"We had opportunities, we just made mistakes at the wrong time,'' Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said.

Bosh agreed that mental errors proved costly for the Raptors, who are in the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

"I don't think we played our best basketball today,'' Bosh said. "We have to take what we did from this game, learn from it and just remember that so we can come back in Game 2 and play a lot better.''

Game 2 is Tuesday night in Toronto.

Bosh said playoff inexperience was a problem for the Raptors.

"They were definitely more poised than we were,'' Bosh said. "They came out a lot more calm. The things we didn't do well they took advantage of.''

Toronto trailed 78-65 after three quarters before rallying in the fourth. Parker and Jose Calderon sparked the comeback with consecutive 3-pointers before Kris Humphries' dunk and a jumper from Bosh made it 81-77 with 6:15 to play.

The Raptors closed within one on Calderon's layup with 4:10 left, but Bostjan Nachbar's 3-pointer with 2:42 remaining pushed New Jersey's cushion back to 87-83.

Parker hit a 3-pointer with 12 seconds to go cut it to three, but Carter made one of two free throws to make it a two-possession game again.

"Toronto answered every run we had,'' Frank said. "We were just fortunate to make some key plays.''

Toronto's hopes took an early hit when Bosh was forced to the bench with two fouls halfway through the first quarter. By the time he returned with 6:18 left in the half, the Raptors trailed 42-32.

"That kind of stuff hurts you,'' Mitchell said.

The Raptors missed their first seven shots from beyond the arc before Juan Dixon connected with 3:15 left in the first half, bringing Toronto within 44-41.

That was the Raptors' last basket before the break, as New Jersey scored seven straight to take a 51-41 lead.

Carter had to sit down after picking up his fourth foul with 9:33 left in the third, allowing the Raptors back into the game. On the next possession, Ford finished off a three-point play that made it 51-50, but Toronto could not draw level and the Nets soon pushed their lead back to nine.

Notes: Former NBA greats Bill Russell and Darryl Dawkins watched the game together from courtside seats. ... The Raptors tried to boost the atmosphere inside Air Canada Centre by handing out red T-shirts to their fans, but New Jersey countered by wearing their red uniforms. Jefferson jokingly thanked the Raptors for making the Nets feel welcome with the shirt giveaway. "That showed us a lot of love,'' he said.

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