By Jason Schott - @JESchott19
The Nets played their most complete game of the series and it resulted in a dominant 97-83 win over the Raptors in Game 6 to bring this game back to Toronto for a deciding Game 7 on Sunday.
Nets Head Coach Jason Kidd said of the difference in the team tonight, "Well I thought the energy. We were aggressive from the start. For 48 minutes guys executed offensively and defensively. We shared the ball. We had a little lull there in the fourth, but guys understood that we had to get a stop. Then going on the offensive end, guys were sharing the ball. So guys stepped up and made plays on both ends."
Kidd switched it up on Friday night: He inserted Alan Anderson into the starting lineup in place of Shaun Livingston. On starting Anderson, Kidd said, "Well, it was just a feeling. With Alan, we've asked him to do everything and it's nothing that Shaun hasn't done for us. It was more a feeling among the coaching staff, the way that he played for us in the fourth quarter up in Toronto, to see if he could carry that over and he definitely picked up where he was in Toronto; rebounding the ball. We're asking him to guard DeMar DeRozan and he had some great looks that he normally feels he can make so that's why we went with him."
The Nets threw everything they had at the Raptors in the first quarter, and it was one of their best quarters of the season. From the start, Kevin Garnett was a force on offense, getting to the line for a couple of free throws followed by a dunk on a pass from Anderson that got the crowd going.
The Nets got a ten-point lead on an Andray Blatche layup that made it 21-11 at the 4:39 mark, and maintained a lead around there. They took their biggest lead, 16 points, near the end of the first, and led it by 15, at 34-19 when it was over.
In the first, Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce had nine points each, Deron Williams had five points, and Alan Anderson had five assists, providing the spark they needed.
On Toronto's start tonight and if it was a continuation of the fourth quarter in Game 5, Raptors Head Coach Dwane Casey said, "It was. We started the game out in the opposite disposition than we wanted to. I thought they came out in a desperate mode and we didn't. They did what they were supposed to do and we didn't start to play that way until we got knocked down in the second half and that's what the playoffs are about. Your start probably tells you how you're going to finish and tonight they got their foot on the pedal a lot quicker than we did."
The Raptors cut the Nets' lead down to 12, at 42-30 in the second quarter, and the Nets responded with a 9-0 run capped by a Deron Williams three and a Blatche put-back layup that made it 51-40. They took a 60-41 lead into the half.
The Nets opened up a 26-point lead, at 71-45, on a Pierce three with 7:39 left in the third. In a series in which no lead is safe, Toronto got as close as 11, at 88-77, with 4:20 left in the fourth. A Williams three that made it 92-79 with 1:13 left brought the house down and sealed the win.
Williams played his best game of the series, as he had 23 points on 8-for-16 from the field and 4-for-10 on 3-pointers, with 4 assists and 5 rebounds. His counterpart in the backcourt, Johnson, had 17 points on 5-for-12 from the field and only took one three-point attempt, which he missed.
One key to the win was that Kidd played just Garnett and Blatche at center, and left Mason Plumlee on the bench. Garnett had a lot to prove after a tough first five games, which included being benched late in Game 5, and he delivered. He had 13 points on a superb 5-for-7 from the field and 5 rebounds in 23 minutes. Garnett said on what helped the Nets get this win, "The energy. I thought that we came out and we were super aggressive in the beginning of the game. I thought the way to control our turnovers was to be aggressive. I thought we did that starting the game, we knew what the scheme was going to be, and overall it was a good game. They made a stretch in the second half, they got aggressive, but you expect that from a good team, that they are going to make a run at some point. I thought we did a good job of weathering the storm and then making a run of our own."
Garnett said of what worked defensively, "Just playing desperate basketball. We had our backs against the wall at home, but there was no way in hell they were going to come here and get a win today. We were just desperate, and now we have to go up there and have the same kind of mindset in a very passionate atmosphere."
On KG playing more minutes, Kidd said, "He had a whopping six more minutes. We stretched him out. KG was great. He's always been great for us and when you have a guy like that, that you can lean on down the stretch when things got a little stagnant, he stepped up and made a big shot and got rebounds. That's who he is. He's a future Hall of Famer and he loves the situation and he responded."
Blatche took advantage of the extra minutes, as he had 8 points (4-8 FG) and 7 rebounds in 21 minutes. He said of playing well in the paint and playing hard in general, "It was do or die. We wanted this game. We were hungry for it. We came out aggressive on offense and defense and we came out with a lot of energy."
One key to the win was the job the Nets' defense did on Kyle Lowry, taking away a big weapon for the Raptors. Lowry had just 11 points on putrid 4-for-16 shooting with 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and he was in foul trouble for most of the night, as he took five fouls. Blatche said of that, "I think Deron being on Kyle Lowry like that, you know getting into him, not giving him any space, not letting him get comfortable, it slowed them down and started giving them doubt. Then with DeMar DeRozan, we played great defense on him. He hit a lot of tough shots in the beginning." DeRozan finished with 28 points, but shot just 8-for-18 and was 10-for-11 from the free throw line.