TORONTO (AP) - After a quiet first half, Andrea Bargnani was sensational in the second.
Bargnani scored 24 of his 32 points after halftime, adding nine rebounds as the Toronto Raptors beat the New Jersey Nets for the sixth straight time, 98-92 on Friday night.
Back in the lineup after missing Wednesday's loss to Chicago with a sore left knee, Bargnani made just four of 11 shots in the first and second quarters, then connected on 10 of 15 attempts after the break.
``We knew we were going to go to him, we just wanted to ease him back in a little bit,' Raptors coach Jay Triano said. ``In the second half, we needed to get the best player the basketball.'
Linas Kleiza had 18 points and matched his career high with 12 rebounds, and Jose Calderon returned after missing four games with a sore left foot to put up 15 points and 14 assists for Toronto.
``Bargnani is a tough cover for anybody and he had a big night,' Nets coach Avery Johnson said. ``We gave him a lot of different looks. He beat some of our coverages.'
The Raptors had lost two straight and six of seven.
Brook Lopez scored 20 points and Devin Harris had 15 for New Jersey, while former Raptor Kris Humphries had 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Bargnani was getting treatment on his knee after the game and did not speak to reporters. Lopez said Bargnani's offensive versatility makes him especially difficult to guard.
``Every game I've played against him, he's gotten better,' Lopez said. ``You have to respect his shot, so he can pump fake, put it on the floor and get to the basket. He's playing more in the post this year, too. He's doing a fantastic job.'
Travis Outlaw scored 14 points for the Nets, who have lost nine of 10 and are 2-12 on the road.
``Our guys battled,' Johnson said. ``We came to play tonight, we just couldn't finish it.'
Toronto has not lost to New Jersey since a 94-87 home defeat on Dec. 15, 2008. DeMar DeRozan had 14 points and Leandro Barbosa scored 10.
New Jersey led 71-69 to begin the fourth but consecutive baskets by Bargnani gave Toronto a 73-71 lead. Jordan Farmar and Outlaw hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Farmar followed up a steal with a fast-break dunk, putting the Nets up 79-73 and prompting Toronto to call timeout.
The stoppage seemed to reinvigorate the Raptors, who responded with a 16-2 run. Bargnani, Calderon and Kleiza all hit 3-pointers as Toronto took an 89-81 lead with 4:47 left. Lopez said Calderon's 3, which came after Kleiza's missed free throw, was particularly damaging.
``It's those little plays that come back and bite you in the butt down the stretch,' Lopez said.
Outlaw made a pair of free throws and Lopez hit five of six from the line to bring the Nets within two. Bargnani made a turnaround jumper but Humphries replied with a dunk, making it 92-90 with 1:39 to play.
DeRozan had a driving dunk and Lopez tipped in Harris' missed layup before Barbosa hit a 3-pointer with 15 seconds remaining, giving Toronto a 97-92 lead.
``We wanted to make somebody else beat us besides Bargnani, and (Barbosa) made the shot,' Harris said. ``You've got to give them credit, they made shots.'
New Jersey lost Quinton Ross 2 minutes into the game when the swingman was fouled by Amir Johnson on a layup and landed hard on his back. He limped off shortly afterward and immediately headed to the locker room.
``I tried to keep going but it tightened up on me,' Ross said. ``We'll take it day by day and see how it feels.'
Avery Johnson said the Nets paid for Ross' absence in the fourth quarter.
``With him not being out there, it hurt us,' the coach said. ``We had to overextend Outlaw tonight to 39 or 40 minutes. Towards the end of the game he got a little fatigued.'
Notes: Kleiza started in place of Sonny Weems, who was scratched with back spasms. ... Amir Johnson fouled out with six points in 22 minutes. ... The game marked the return to Toronto for Nets assistant Sam Mitchell, who coached the Raptors from 2004-08. Mitchell went 156-189 with Toronto, winning the Atlantic Division and being selected coach of the year in 2006-07.
The Associated Press News Service
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