One of the funniest things about these NBA Playoffs is watching an arrogant bunch of Brooklyn Nets players trying to explain how the young and inexperienced Toronto Raptors, making it an even 2-2 series after a 87-79 road win, are playing better than them in crunch time.
The story for the Raptors was about a fast start, taking a 35-22 lead after the first quarter and leading by 17 points at one point during the first half. Then came the fourth quarter, and with the Nets leading by one, everything changed. The Raptors defense didn’t allow a single point in the final five minutes, and the Nets looked like a team without a shred of an idea on how to punch through the defense they were facing.
They missed all 10 of their field goal attempts outside the paint in the fourth quarter, and were bad all nights on jumpers off the dribble, which worked so well for them and especially Joe Johnson through the first three games. Johnson was limited to only 7 points, and the Nets overall were 1-of-11 on off the dribble jumpers in game four, missing all nine jump shots they attempted in the fourth quarter. They had a four point lead with 6:11 left in the game, but scored only two points from that moment on, outscored by 12 points and missing all six field goal attempts they had.
Paul Pierce said it had something to do with players, including himself, trying to win on their own. Deron Williams had a rough game with 4-of-12 from the field, but that was mostly due to the Raptors moving Greivis Vasquez on him in the fourth quarter, finally finding a way to make Williams feel small. Williams missed all four field goal attempts in the final quarter, and we’re probably going to see more Vasquez on him in the remaining games, be it two or three more.
Only six players actually scored for the Raptors. It was a game for their backcourt to step up. DeMar DeRozan scored 24 points although he continues to shoot quite badly from the field, this time hitting only 7-of-19. He is making only 36% of his field goal attempts in the postseason, averaging 18.8 attempts per game. Kyle Lowry was a little bit more efficient, scoring 22 points, connecting three times from beyond the arc. Amir Johnson had 17 points and Jonas Valanciunas added 6 in only 23 minutes of basketball.
Vasquez played 35 minutes off the bench for the Raptors. Besides his defense on Williams he scored nine points to go with 6 rebounds and nine assists. Patrick Patterson put his free throw misses behind him and scored 9 points as well, this time not messing up when he actually got to the line. Guys like Terrence Ross and John Salmons were hardly involved in the offensive game, combining to take only four shots, missing them all.
A game that began with Michael K. Williams dissing Donald Sterling and ended with Drake doing the same to Kevin Garnett wasn’t as fired up as some might try and make this rivalry to be about. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce always try and bring in some non-basketball issues into a game, hoping that the fans and their attitude prevails. This Raptors team might not have NBA champions or a wealth of experience behind them, but they just might be the better team, which is usually more important.