EAST RUTHERFORD -- At just about every attempt the Raptors made to get to the arena for last night's game, they met stops.
First, it was the weather holding up their charter flight that arrived about four hours later than it should have Thursday night.
Then just getting to the arena last night on the team bus proved to be a chore when it collided with a vehicle leaving coach Jay Triano and most of his starters a little more than an hour to get all their pre-game work and stretching in.
But in the end, it was the stops the Raptors had in the game that will be the lasting memory of this game.
On the strength of the strongest 48-minute defensive display of the season thus far (assuming you ignore the rebounding), the Raptors won their second in a row holding the Nets to just 31.3% shooting in a 101-79 win.
"I think we did a good job," Triano said. "(Devin Harris) and Vince Carter are such good players, you have to show them more than just one body and for the most part tonight we did that and kept things funnelled to the outside."
Harris was held to 14 points but it was the job on Carter who was limited to just three and for the first time in his career in a game in which he played at least 10 minutes he was held scoreless from the field. It was an 0-for-13 that Carter took home with him last night, a far cry from the game-high 39 points and overtime game-winner he had in the first meeting between these two teams.
The first line of defence against Carter was either Jamario Moon or Joey Graham and they were jacked up for the job.
" We just took it upon ourselves tonight and said Vince is not going to score and if he does it's going to be a tough shot and that's exactly what we did," Graham said.
But Graham said the job was no where close to just a two-man job. The times Carter managed to get past one of those two he was met with another layer of defence.
"There wasn't a lane tonight," Graham said. "We closed up all the gaps. If Vince thought he had a lane it closed up very quick for him. That's one of our new principles. No gaps and no open spaces and we did a good job of executing that tonight."
Chris Bosh and Jermaine O'Neal were in on this too forcing Carter to the outside and literally owning the paint for most of the night.
"We wanted him to try to get through different layers of defence instead of just getting past one guy and laying it up," Bosh said. "We wanted to make him beat one guy and then meet someone else and then someone else after that if he got by that second guy."
Triano, as happy as he was with the defensive effort, said the job is far from complete.
"We're getting to where we want to be but there were still some things that happened," he said. "We really have to clean up our rebounding. The job isn't done on the defensive end until we rebound the basketball and we were lucky to get away without doing that real well. That will come and it's the final part of what we're trying to do on the defensive end and we still need to work on it. On the glass, the Raptors were outrebounded 50-37.
Offensively the positive signs are starting to come as well.
"We're starting to get some flow," Triano said. "It's a mindset. Instead of looking over for a play, run the floor and create on your own. We've got good enough players to do that and I think some guys are starting to flourish in that. I think Jason Kapono and Joey Graham both like to have a little bit of space in the open court and not be so structured in what we're doing offensively. Bosh led a list of six Raptors in double digits with 18 points while Kapono recovered from an 0-for-6 start from the field to finish up with 16, the same number Graham finished with.
NO HARM, NO FOUL
Nets coach Lawrence Frank pulled Vince Carter out of the game with 2:49 to go in the first quarter thinking he had just picked up his third foul much like everyone else in the building. But somewhere along the way, the officials took one of his fouls away and charged it to Brook Lopez.
Bad enough that Carter was having an 0-for-11 night on the floor but when he went into the stands trying to chase down a loose ball in the third quarter it got worse. First he landed cross body on a pair of paying Nets fans. But the combination of them trying to help Carter and Carter trying to help himself had him falling further into the crowd before a third customer a row back came in and finally helped him up. Not exactly athletic grace.