After the game some Toronto Raptors players tried to make it seem like the Brooklyn Nets won thanks bad calls from the officials, but the visitors had their chances – they simply blew them, helping the Nets come away with the 102-98 win, taking a 2-1 lead in series.
I’m not saying that there wasn’t some sort of home court effect on the officials. The Nets were extra aggressive, but in the fourth quarter it looked like the refs were calling the game a lot more fairly. Patrick Patterson had the chance to tie the game from the line but missed both shots with the score 98-96 in favor of the Nets but he blew it, and another 30-point game from DeMar DeRozan went to waste, as the Raptors defense found it very hard to contain the important trio for the Nets.
Joe Johnson led the way with 29 points, followed by Deron Williams scoring 22 and Paul Pierce adding 18. These three players are what’s most important in this series for the Nets offensively. They can all put the ball on the floor and create shots for themselves and others; they’re all constantly looking for mismatches to be put in, like Johnson and Williams posting up on smaller guards, or Pierce taking guys like Tyler Hansbrough, who has no business guarding him on the perimeter, to the hole.
Kevin Garnett’s numbers aren’t impressive. He only played for 16 minutes as well. But some teams need a cheerleader on the floor, and that is what Garnett does. He dives for one ball, and makes it seem like he has been a huge influence on the entire game. He fires up the players around him, firing up the fans. He doesn’t bring points, and Jonas Valanciunas makes him seem small, old and weak. But few players can energize those around him quite like him.
Johnson couldn’t stop knocking down jumpers, and when that happens the Nets are very hard to beat. He was 7-for-10 for 17 points on jump shots, more than in the first two games combined. It served as quite the difference when compared with DeRozan who got 13 points from the free throw line, but was 8-of-22 from the field in a game that looked a lot like the first one, as the Raptor struggled getting the right shots and attacking the basket with ease, instead settling for contested jumpers.
The Raptors feel like they’re not going away, and they’re not in the lead of this series just because of tiny mistakes here and there. Paul Pierce talked about the small things, saying that the Nets need to improve, because Toronto aren’t likely to disappear easily at this stage. The Nets are probably the better basketball team, but it remains to be seen if they can handle consistency two games in a row, something that older teams often struggle with. The key is in the Williams-Johnson-Pierce trio performance and their ability to dominate with the outside-inside kind of game, while keeping the Raptors’ offense looking slightly confused and disorganized as it has been for most of this series.