Sometimes all it takes to have a good game is make one big play when it matters the most. Joe Johnson was the difference maker for the Brooklyn Nets in their 104-103 game 7 win over the Toronto Raptors, sending them to the conference semifinals, but it was Paul Pierce with a block on Kyle Lowry that saved the day and clinched the game as time expired.
In something of a trading blows moment in the final minute, the Raptors kept choosing the easy two points instead of attempting a 3-pointer to tie the game, as the Nets stayed ahead of them by one points and then three, with the process going on repeat. Leading by one point, the Nets made a foolish turnover as Terrence Ross tipped a bad from Shaun Livingston to Paul Pierce, and then slammed the ball on Pierce to win possession. Six seconds to go, one point game.
Instead of trying to do something creative, their best player in the series and the day, Kyle Lowry, decided it’s time to play hero. He simply lowered his head and went to the basket. He somehow got by Kevin Garnett and Deron Williams, but without a clear line of sight or any attempt to find Amir Johnson right next to him, Lowry put up a bad shot, blocked by Paul Pierce on another so-so day and ended up on the floor, realizing he messed up while the Nets were off celebrating.
Lowry had two opportunities to hit open players with a pass, but after scoring 28 points (almost half of them on free throws), he thought it’s up to him and his skills to make things right. The Raptors were chasing the Nets all game long, once again failing to get Jonas Valanciunas going early, finishing with only 3 points. Garnett once again showed up with 12 points and 11 rebounds, and although he is inconsistent with plenty of ups and downs during games on both ends of the floor, he still isn’t washed up.
The big difference maker was Joe Johnson with 26 points, including 13 in the final quarter. The Raptors didn’t know what to do with him, as he made his shots in one on ones, and every double team was punished with quick pass and 3-pointer, either by Paul Pierce or Marcus Thornton, who was 4-of-6 from beyond the arc, scoring 17 points and being on the floor during the Nets’ best minutes in the game.
Jason Kidd looked shocked and stunned in the final play, but he becomes the first rookie head coach to win a game 7 on the road. The Nets have plenty of experience on the floor to make up for his lack of, and there’s no denying that the connection made at some point during the season, probably somewhere around their lowest point before the turn of the years, has been a major force in their excellent 2014.
Something basic: The team with the better effective field goal percentage and turnover percentage wins every time. Not just in the series between the Nets and Raptors, but all through the playoffs. The Nets had a slight edge in that aspect over the Raptors all through the series, and proving that their ability to play smarter basketball with fewer mistakes down the road was the difference in something that was usually too close to call.