Raptors Make Statement
By Jason Schott
The Toronto Raptors made quite a statement in this battle for the Atlantic Division as they got a stunning win over the Nets 104-103 on Monday night at Barclays Center.
This was a thriller that was close for most of the way, but the Nets were trailing 94-85 when Amir Johnson hit two free throws at the 8:03 mark of the fourth quarter that capped an 8-0 run for the Raptors. The Nets held Toronto scoreless for the next four minutes and it allowed them to tie the game on an Alan Anderson jumper at the 3:47 mark. Jonas Valanciunas broke the scoreless streak for the Raptors when he hit a hook shot at the 3:26 mark.
Paul Pierce was having a big night on offense and was set to take the game over, which he did in the final minutes. He hit back-to-back three-pointers to give the Nets a 100-96 lead with 2:32 remaining.
The Nets were clinging to a 101-100 lead in the final minute when a Deron Williams pass to Paul Pierce was stolen by Kyle Lowry, who raced to the other end. Lowry drove down the lane and Williams drew the offensive foul. It looked like Williams' feet were shuffling, but he had position, so he drew the call. It also could have been a make-up for the non-call at the other end because Lowry was all over Pierce before Williams' pass to him and should have been called for a foul for it.
Pierce was fouled on the inbounds pass and made both free throws to make it a 103-100 Brooklyn leas with 17.4 seconds left. Toronto had plenty of time to set up a good shot, but John Salmons took the quick layup down the lane to make it a one-point game.
At this point, Nets Head Coach Jason Kidd took a 20-second timeout, his last one, which would loom large with what would happen next.
The timeout moved the inbounds pass to the Toronto end, and Williams had few options except to throw it to Joe Johnson in the backcourt. Patrick Patterson jumped in front of Johnson to steal the floating pass. Patterson passed it to Kyle Lowry, who got it right back to Patterson on the side when they reached the Nets' end. Patterson faked out Williams and made the wide-open jumper, silencing the Barclays Center.
Nets Head Coach Jason Kidd said of the inbounds pass, "One of the options, we tried to spread them out and D-Will has the ball to make the decision on who he's going to go to and he felt that he could get the ball to Joe."
There was six seconds on the clock after the Patterson jumper, and it appeared that the Nets players may not have realized they were out of timeouts as nobody ran to the ball lying under the hoop. Pierce inbounded and got it right back to drive to the other end, and he missed a three from the side that would have won it. On if he thought the shot had a chance to go in, Pierce confidently said, "I think all my shots have a chance."
The Raptors were jumping all over the court after the win, showing the importance of this game to them. They are now 23-21 and have a 2 1/2 game lead over the Nets, who have been coming on strong of late.
Pierce had the best game of his season, as he poured in 33 points on 10-for-16 shooting and 7-of-10 from behind the arc. Andray Blatche continued his stellar play, as he had 20 points off the bench. The only other Net in double figures was Joe Johnson, who had 12 points on a pedestrian 3-for-10 from the field.
Kidd said of the emotions after the tough loss, "I think the guys tonight, the pace was a little fast for us in the first half. The second half, especially the fourth quarter, we put ourselves in a position to win the game and it comes down to the last play getting the ball in and we turn the ball over and they score."
Pierce said of the loss, "It's tough. we fought so hard to come back but we put ourselves in a bad position. We got down late, we got down in the fourth quarter and we had to claw our way back. We gave ourselves a chance to win. Sometimes that's all you can ask for. We just didn't execute properly down the stretch."