EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- There are plenty of reasons not to venture out to a Nets game on a Friday night. Traffic, for one. A half-empty basketball arena, for another.
You could be as unlucky as the passengers on the Toronto Raptors' second bus from their Jersey City hotel and get into a minor scrape with another vehicle. This is what happened to the bus carrying Chris Bosh, Jermaine O'Neal, and several members of the Raptors' coaching and front office staff. Trying to navigate the narrow city streets, the driver of the aforementioned bus learned that buses don't fit on the narrow streets of Jersey City, especially when they are attempting to turn a corner. After one such unsuccessful maneuver, the bus crashed into a car behind it while backing up to make room. This resulted in Bosh and O'Neal arriving about an hour before tipoff.
This was nothing compared to the night Vince Carter had. While Bosh and O'Neal spent much of the fourth quarter on the bench enjoying what amounted to a 101-79 victory, Carter sat and stewed about the worst shooting performance of his 11-year career.
Carter was 0-for-13 from the field Friday night, scoring his only three points at the foul line. It was the first time he'd played at least 10 minutes without a field goal. He had two 0-for-3 shooting games while with the Raptors in 2001 and '02, but left those games in the first quarter with injuries.
"He's a scorer," Bosh said. "When you do something like that, that's a credit to the defense. He's very talented, and he's hard to stop. We tried to limit his points in the paint. We tried to put a body on him at all times. We tried to make him get through different layers of defense instead of just getting past one guy and then laying it up. We didn't want to do that. We wanted to make him beat one guy and then meet somebody else, and then probably somebody else after that."
Carter met three such people midway through the third, but they were seated in the stands behind the basket. Lunging for a loose ball, Carter landed awkwardly on two people in the first row. He had fallen, and he couldn't get up. A guy in the second row jumped up and helped him to his feet. "Thanks, baby," Carter said as he ran back on defense.
That was all the help he got on this night, and all he had to say, too. Carter, who typically answers postgame questions in the interview room, left the building before stopping by to chat.
Wasn't much to talk about.
The Raptors, now 2-3 under interim coach Jay Triano, put forth their best defensive effort of the season in holding the Nets to 31 percent shooting from the field. They got outrebounded 50-37, but are beginning to show signs of defending the basket and pushing the ball in transition, two critical areas Sam Mitchell wasn't able to extract from his underachieving team.
Next time in New Jersey, though, the Raptors will want to find a new hotel. Not to mention a new bus driver.