By Jason Schott - @JESchott19
The Toronto Raptors evened the series with a strong start and finish to beat the Nets 87-79 in Game 4 on Sunday night at Barclays Center.
Toronto's DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry have put up big numbers in this series, and this game was no exception. DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors with 24 points on 7-for-19 from the field, 1-1 on threes, and made 9 of 11 foul shots. Kyle Lowry had 22 points (7-17 FG, 3-8 on 3-pt) and played through pain late in the game suffering a tough knee injury in the third quarter.
DeRozan said how they closed the game, holding the Nets scoreless over the final 4:58, "That's just us man. We're definitely resilient, we're not going to give up until the game's over, we're going to fight through. Kyle was a little banged up; I tried to come out aggressive myself, I knew they were going to pick it up in the second half but that's just us, we gave them the defensive end to win this game, we did it again."
Lowry said, "That's just our team man. We've got a team full of guys who just want to win; myself, D (DeMar) we are the leaders and it starts with us but we've got 13 other guys who want to win just as bad as us and want us to win; as bad as they want to win, we want to win."
Raptors Head Coach Dwane Casey was asked if this is the proudest he has been of his team, and he said, "Yeah, it is. We're on a mission, it's a marathon; been going through it for a lot of years and we can't get too excited about a win, can't get too excited about a loss."
The Raptors opened the game on a 13-2 run, and led 35-22 at the end of the first quarter. Amir Johnson had 11 points, taking advantage of his advantage over Kevin Garnett; and DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry had 10 points each.
As much as Toronto dominated when Garnett was in there in the second quarter, the reverse was true in the second. KG entered the game at the 7:03 mark for Andray Blatche with the Nets trailing 43-29. The Nets went on a run, and an Alan Anderson lay-up with 48.7 seconds left cut the Raptors' lead to 49-44, and Toronto took a 51-44 lead into the second half.
The Nets came out firing in the third quarter, opening it on an 8-0 run, with Paul Pierce scoring five points in the span, and capped by a Garnett lay-up to make it 52-51. The Nets maintained the lead, taking a five-point lead after a Joe Johnson three followed by a free throw a possession later made it 64-59 with 2:23 left in the third. The Raptors responded with an 8-1 run capped by a Kyle Lowry three that made it 67-64 with 48.3 seconds left. Shaun Livingston got to the line with 4.3 seconds left, and he hit the first free throw. He missed the second one, and Mirza Teletovic got the rebound and stepped back away from the scrum for an open jumper to tie the game at 67 as time expired.
The fourth quarter was tight to start, and the Nets led 71-69 with 8:28 left when Garnett was brought in for Blatche a little earlier than usual. A Pierce lay-up gave the Nets a 77-73 lead with 6:12 left. Patrick Patterson responded with a three, followed by a Jonas Valanciunas lay-up to give Toronto a 78-77 lead. Garnett got to the line with 4:58 left and hit a couple of free throws to give the Nets a 79-78 lead. Amazingly, those would be the last points the Nets would score.
Greivis Vasquez, who has proven to be a thorn in the Nets' side, hit a big three with 4:07 left to make it 83-79 Raptors. The score stayed that way for a while. Garnett, who took a breather from the 4:43 mark to the 2:25 mark, was called for a moving screen with 2:05 left. On the Nets' next possession, Paul Pierce was called for an offensive foul driving the lane. Amir Johnson drew the foul despite shuffling his feet, but the refs may have given him the benefit of the doubt as it looked like Garnett hit him in the back. Kyle Lowry followed with a running hook shot over Garnett to make it 85-79 with 1:13 left, and Deron Williams missed an open three from the top of the key with 1:01 left, and that was basically the game.
In the fourth quarter, the Raptors outscored the Nets 20-12, and held them to 3-for-17 shooting. The Nets' scoring consisted of 6 points from Mirza Teletovic, 4 points from Kevin Garnett, and 2 points from Paul Pierce.
On making just three baskets in the fourth quarter, Pierce said, "I think they did a lot of the same things. We know they're going to trap Joe on the pick-and-roll in the post. I think a lot of it was on us - our execution, our turnovers. I remember in the third quarter when we went up three or four points, and we just started taking bad shots instead of continuing to execute, move the ball and really try to punch them in the end of that third. That's when they were able to get back in the game, so a combination of our turnovers and our lack of execution really did us in. But we're willing to give it to Joe, allow him to get double-teamed and he's going to have to make plays. They're not going to let him beat them. He's been pretty dominant this series, so we expect it."
Nets Head Coach Jason Kidd said of the loss, "Well, the last four minutes is normally when we feel very comfortable and we just got out of character. We didn't score and that's something we always thought the last four minutes of the game, where we can execute on both ends, offensively and defensively, and we didn't."
On if the second quarter comeback made the outcome more difficult, Kidd said, "That has nothing to do with the game. We took the lead in the third so there are two different halves being played. We don't like to dig a hole like that at home or at any point but I thought the guys responded at halftime. We took the lead and we were going in the right direction. We just couldn't finish it off."
The thing that stood out about this game is how the Raptors shut down Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. They combined for just 17 points, as D-Will had 10 on 4-for-12 from the field and 0-for-5 from behind the arc. Joe Johnson shot 2-for-7 overall and 1-for-2 on threes, and did not take a shot attempt in the fourth. In Friday night's Game 3, they combined for 51 points, as Johnson had 29 and Williams had 22.
The Nets were led by Pierce with 22 points (9-14 FG, 3-7 on 3-pt), Teletovic with 12, and Williams and Garnett with 10 each.