So much praise coming to the Brooklyn Nets after the opening game for their defense, but the Toronto Raptors showed that maybe it was a bit too soon for that, making it an even 1-1 in the series after a huge fourth quarter from the struggling DeMar DeRozan, leading his team in front of a frantic crowd to a 100-95 win.
Paul Pierce called his team soft after the game 2 loss. Pierce was horrible the entire game with 7 points on 2-of-11 from the field, but he made some big plays late in the game that almost ruined the night for the Raptors, as his open three from the left side bounced off the rim while the Raptors were able to breath a sigh of relief. That fourth quarter saw the Raptors attack with speed and aggression, and the Nets, with legs that aren’t built for all that running, couldn’t hold on, giving up 36 points.
But we can talk all day long about pace and speeding things up. It came down to making shots while driving to the basket. The Nets did an excellent job in the first game by limiting the Raptors to 4-of-16 on drives for 13 points. In game 2? A different story, with 28 points on drives to the basket on 11-of-22 shooting, including 12 points in the fourth quarter on 5-of-6 shooting. DeRozan himself scored 17 points in the fourth to finish with 30.
DeRozan started shooting from closer to the basket. Both he and Ross struggled in the opening game, taking too many difficult shots and not making enough of a mental effort to try and think about other options aside from shooting wild, long range shots. The average distance for his field goal attempts was three feet shorter in game 2, and that made a huge difference, especially when facing Joe Johnson, who didn’t seem like such a big nuisance in the second night.
Jonas Valanciunas continues to be a card that works very well for the Raptors – someone they should continue playing through. He has two double doubles to open his playoff career and after a very up & down season it seems like he has found his rhythm and comfort zone against the Nets who don’t have anyone who can really handle him. Valanciunas finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds, and maybe pushing the ball to him for more than nine shots a night will make things even easier for the Raptors.
The Nets didn’t go away in this game. They looked slightly tired n the end, although two full days of rest should have made things easier on them. The Raptors turned the ball over on 24% of their possessions but managed to win, as the Nets couldn’t get a fast break going and were destroyed on the offensive glass, allowing the Raptors to get back 50% of their missed shots. If this series becomes one that is decided by the athletic and physical differences between the teams instead of experience, intelligence and making smart plays on both ends of the floor, the Raptors should start feeling confident even away from home.