Jefferson, Carter help Nets continue dominance over BullsNov 1, 2007 - 4:42 AM By Carl Dispoto PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- The New Jersey Nets have been boasting about their increased depth throughout the offseason. Antoine Wright proved it wasn't just idle talk.
Wright scored 14 of his career-high 21 points after the third quarter and Richard Jefferson made two key baskets in the final 77 seconds of overtime as the Nets posted a 112-103 victory over the Chicago Bulls in the season opener for both teams.
Wright was a small part of New Jersey's rotation last season and was mostly used as an athletic defender. But his impressive season debut hints towards a larger role and the Nets believe their increased depth makes them a contender for the Eastern Conference title.
"I talked about it during the preseason, that our depth with win ball games for us," Nets guard Jason Kidd said. "I'm not putting pressure on our bench but we have guys, and let's talk about Antoine's performance, that are going to step up and carry the load when our starters are struggling."
Wright played nearly 28 minutes and was the primary source of offense in the fourth quarter as Kidd and Vince Carter struggled against Chicago's physical defense.
"I was just able to knock down some open shots," said Wright, who made 8-of-14 shots. "With all the work I put in this summer, every time I touch the ball I feel confident I'm going to make the shot."
"(Antoine) put his time in this summer," Carter said. "He was phenomenal on both ends of the floor. It's great to see his confidence and, if he doesn't play as well as he did on both ends, we don't win this game."
After scoring nine points in the fourth quarter, Wright gave the Nets the lead for good at 99-96 with a 3-pointer just 40 seconds into the extra period. He added a layup at 3:19 and Carter made it 103-100 on an alley-oop inbounds pass from Kidd.
Wright wasn't the only star for New Jersey, as Jefferson collected 29 points and 10 rebounds.
Jefferson had been scoreless for nearly six minutes before sinking a runner from the right baseline with 1:17 left and sealed the victory with a 3-pointer that gave the Nets a 108-102 cushion with 37 seconds remaining.
"They made big plays," Chicago coach Scott Skiles said. "All different plays we needed to make at critical times, we didn't make them."
Carter finished with 24 points despite 6-of-21 shooting and Kidd had 13 assists, eight rebounds and five steals to help New Jersey capture its 12th straight home meeting against Chicago since April 17, 2001.
Jefferson opened the second half with a pair of free throws to give the Nets their largest lead, but Gordon caught fire - making 6-of-10 shots in the period. He sank three 3-pointers and forged a 69-69 tie with a jumper at 1:57.
"I think we waited too long to go after them," Bulls guard Ben Gordon said. "We just need to be consistent all the way through. There is no excuse for that."
Gordon scored 16 of his 27 points in the third quarter and Luol Deng had 22 and 11 rebounds for the Bulls, who rallied from a 17-point third-quarter deficit but lost to the Nets for the 18th time in 23 meetings.
Chicago guard Kirk Hinrich had 14 points but was plagued by foul trouble and played only 25 minutes before fouling out in the final minute of overtime.
New Jersey opened up a 56-41 halftime lead with a 12-4 run in the final three minutes of the second quarter, taking advantage of Chicago's mistakes. Kidd stole an outlet pass, leading to a dunk from Jefferson with 37 seconds left and made 1-of-2 free throws after a steal from Josh Boone to close the half.
Gordon helped the Bulls shoot 57 percent (12-of-21) from the floor in the third while the Nets were just 5-of-17 and entered the fourth clinging to a 74-73 edge.
"For two and a half quarters we were a step slow," Skiles said. "Ben Gordon got us rolling with his shot-making and got us back in the game."
Andres Nocioni gave Chicago its first lead since the first quarter on a jumper 21 seconds into the fourth. The Bulls scored seven straight points to take an 87-84 edge with 4:14 left, but Wright answered with a 3-pointer and Carter sank back-to-back baskets to restore the lead.
Wright's second 3-pointer of the quarter gave the Nets a 96-89 bulge with 2:02 to go, but the Bulls closed regulation with seven straight points. After a 3-point attempt from Kidd that failed to hit the rim, Nocioni buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 40 seconds left to tie it at 96-96.
Carter launched an airball from the left baseline at the other end, but blocked Gordon's jumper in the final seconds to force overtime.
NEW JERSEY 112 FINAL IN 1ST OT
Oct 31 10:33 PM
NEW JERSEY 96 END OF 4TH QTR GOING INTO OVERTIME
Oct 31 10:13 PM
NEW JERSEY 74 END, 3RD QTR
Oct 31 9:34 PM
NEW JERSEY 56 HALFTIME
Oct 31 8:49 PM
NEW JERSEY 25 END, 1ST QTR
Oct 31 8:14 PM
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