EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)—Sam Mitchell said it was a “so-called injury.” Chris Bosh just laughed when he was asked about it.
So, was Jason Kidd really hurt?
“I don’t know if he’s healthy or not, but he did do something special,” teammate Vince Carter said. “He definitely played phenomenal on both ends. I’m just glad that he was able to come in and play tonight.”
Kidd had a playoff career-high 19 assists in his 10th postseason triple-double, Carter scored 37 points, and the New Jersey Nets beat the Toronto Raptors 102-89 on Friday night to take a 2-1 lead in their Eastern Conference first-round series.
“Vince came out early and took it to us. That was the thing we were afraid of,” said Toronto’s Mitchell, the NBA’s coach of the year. “He started making some tough shots. I thought Jason Kidd, with the supposed so-called injury, was unbelievable. He dominated the basketball game. As good as Vince was, Jason Kidd was part of everything. He rebounded, assists. He made big shots. Every time we made a little run, he made a play.”
One day after missing practice because of a bruised left knee, Kidd was back in the starting lineup and added 16 points and 16 rebounds. He had 14 assists by halftime and easily passed his previous best of 16, set when he was playing for Phoenix. He also had the previous New Jersey record of 15.
“The thing that is unique about Jason is that, on any given night, he can have a triple-double. The fact he almost did a 20-20-20 deal is remarkable,” Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. “With Jason, in terms of the knee, once he puts that uniform on, you’re going to get his best effort. It’s just his will.”
Kidd snapped a tie with Wilt Chamberlain and moved into one with Larry Bird for second on the career postseason triple-doubles list. He is still 20 behind Magic Johnson, the career leader.
The Nets, who never trailed and led by as many as 21 points, host Game 4 on Sunday night.
Kidd said the injury helped him focus more, knowing he wouldn’t be as quick so he needed to play smarter.
“You just keep playing, and if I’m hurting the team Coach has to sit me down,” Kidd said. “Tonight I felt great.”
T.J. Ford scored 27 points for the Raptors, who haven’t won a postseason road game since beating Philadelphia on May 6, 2001, in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Bosh was limited to 11 points on 3-of-10 shooting.
Carter was only 13-for-43 (30 percent) from the field in the first two games. But just like when he was traded to New Jersey in 2004, getting out of Toronto did wonders for his game.
Carter’s six field goals in the first quarter were one more than he had while going 5-for-19 in a Game 1 victory. He was 8-of-24 in Game 2, making only one of his seven 3-point attempts.
But he mostly stuck close to the basket while making nine of his first 10 shots Friday, and the Nets quickly raced to a double-digit lead, which they maintained for much of the game. Carter finished 15-of-23.
“We know that he’s still a good player,” Bosh said. “He came out ready for action today. He made it a point to get into the lane and make it hard for us.”
Kidd averaged 11 points, 11 assists and 10.5 rebounds in the two games in Toronto, where he hurt his knee attempting to take a charge early in Game 2. He is trying to become the first player to average a triple-double in a postseason series since he did it against the Boston Celtics in the 2002 Eastern Conference finals.
New Jersey shot 61 percent and led 31-19 after one quarter behind 13 points from Carter. The Raptors closed to 36-28 early in the second, but Carter made consecutive 3s, then a spinning layup on a feed from Kidd to push the lead to 44-28 with 7:56 remaining in the half.
The lead was 58-39 at halftime and never fell below eight in the second half. That came early in the fourth, and Carter then had a jumper and three-point play and Kidd added a basket to push the lead back to 15.
Those two combined for a spectacular play midway through the period, with Kidd throwing a behind-the-back pass on the break to Carter, who threw down a dunk while being fouled.
Former NFL star Deion Sanders had a front-row spot behind the basket, but there were plenty of empty seats on a day when traveling around the area was difficult because of flooding. … Johnson, Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson and Fat Lever also averaged a triple-double for a series. Johnson did it four times and Chamberlain twice. … New Jersey improved to 3-6 in Game 3s in series that were tied 1-1.