By Jason Schott - @JESchott19
The Nets won Game 3 over the Toronto Raptors, 102-98, on Friday night at Barclays Center to take a 2-1 lead in the series. The Nets have a chance to get some momentum from this because it is the first time in the series that there is just one day off ahead of the next game, which is Sunday night in Brooklyn.
The Nets' backcourt got them the win, as Joe Johnson led the way with 29 points on 11-for-17 from the field and 3-4 from behind the arc, and point guard Deron Williams had 22 points (7-14 FG, 2-5 on 3-pt), 8 assists, and rebounds. On his success in the post tonight, Johnson said, "I was just being patient. Throughout the first half, I saw them coming at me with the double-team so I was just trying to make the right play for my teammates and we were rolling early. In the second half, it opened up and I got a couple easy looks."
Nets Head Coach Jason Kidd said of Johnson and D-Will's performance, "Those two are playing extremely well. They're very aggressive. Joe is closing a lot of problems, looking to double-team and trapping, and when he is called, he is just stepping up. Deron's one of those guys, finding the open guys, he was just aggressive the whole night. Joe's been like this the whole series. He seems to get better as the game gets closer to the end."
The Nets were trailing 23-19 after the first, and Marcus Thornton started a run in the second half that ended with his three-point play to give the Nets a 33-32 lead with 7:07 left in the second. From when the game was tied at 35, the Nets went on a 14-6 run, in which Paul Pierce had six points, and they led 49-45 at halftime.
The Nets took it over in the third quarter. From when it was 55-50 at the 8:27 mark, the Nets went on a 10-4 run capped by a Mason Plumlee put-back that made it 65-54 Brooklyn. The Raptors got as close as seven, but the Nets took an 11-point lead, at 77-66, into the fourth quarter.
The Nets were cruising in the fourth quarter, and led by as many as 15, at 90-75, and Andray Blatche was a big part of it, with 6 points and 3 rebounds in the fourth.
Kevin Garnett entered the game for Blatche with 3:15 remaining and the Nets ahead 93-83. It seemed to be just the spark Toronto needed, as they pulled to within four, at 95-91 with 1:07 left. Deron Williams got to the line twice, and hit only one of four free throws to give the Nets a 97-93 lead with 40.7 seconds left.
The Raptors took a quick shot, which was a DeMar DeRozan driving layup, and Garnett fouled him. It was KG's sixth, so he fouled out, bringing Blatche back into the game. DeRozan hit the second free throw to make it 97-96 Nets. Shaun Livingston was fouled on the inbounds with 20.3 seconds left, and he hit the first free throw and missed the second. While going for the loose ball, Blatche fouled Patrick Patterson with the Nets ahead 98-96. If Patterson hit them, the Raptors would have tied it. Instead, he missed, and Paul Pierce was fouled with 14.6 seconds left.
Pierce hit both free throws to make it 100-96, and Amir Johnson hit a put-back with 3.7 seconds left to cut it back to two. Toronto fouled Joe Johnson on the inbounds with 3.1 left, and Joe Clutch hit both to seal the win.
It is undeniable that the Raptors' late run began when Garnett entered the game. Nets Head Coach Jason Kidd was asked by BrooklynFans.com after the game if he is concerned about that, and he said assertively, "No. We won the game with KG on the floor, he's one of our leaders. The big thing is he was out there and fouled out. He gave everything he had so there is no concern."
In Game 3, Garnett played just 16 minutes and had 2 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists. The late run with him out there is a real concern, as they have to accept the fact that Garnett is done. They nursed him through the regular season, playing him 18 minutes a night and sitting him in the second half of back-t0-backs. Despite these measures, he missed all of March with back spasms. In that month, with Mason Plumlee in the starting lineup, they went 12-4, best in the Eastern Conference and Kidd was honored as Coach of the Month because of that.
The Nets have had trouble in the first quarter, including tonight, in which they were outscored 23-19 by the Raptors, and part of that can be put on Garnett. For Game 4, Plumlee should be restored to the starting lineup to try to get that rhythm back. Plumlee showed a great ability on offense, and had great chemistry with Deron Williams, who knew just how to set Plumlee up for alley-oops, becoming the East Coast version of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Garnett should come in with the younger, faster second unit so he is not as much a liability.
Joe Johnson said of the late run by Toronto, "Honestly, I think we got a little lackadaisical. I think we were up like 15 with five minutes left, and that's very uncharacteristic of us to blow a lead like that. So J-Kidd will make us look at it and we'll see some things that we can improve on and get better at, but that's not us."
Deron Williams said of it, "You know, I think again our fourth quarter was our worst defensive quarter, and that's the second game in a row. They scored 32 points this game, 36 last game. You know, that's tough. Like Joe said, we were up 15, and we got to work on extending that and putting teams away, especially in our building. We have the crowd behind us and we got to put our foot on people, and we didn't do that tonight."
Raptors Head Coach Dwane Casey said of fighting back once they put themselves in a hole, "No question, I just felt the second quarter was when they ramped up the pressure and six turnovers was just huge. The difference in this game was the turnovers. We got to match their physicality. We got to understand how the officials are calling the game and do it accordingly. I just thought that 19 turnovers, a lot of those were getting back off our mark, we just got to be strong; or accordingly turn around and play the way they're playing, bumping and hitting in those situations. So, things that are correctable but I love the fight from my team. This team tries to throw haymakers at us and go at us but we did a good job of battling back and staying in the game and staying competing."