By Jason Schott - @JESchott19
The Toronto Raptors got out to a big lead in Game 5, and held off a furious comeback led by Joe Johnson, to beat the Nets 115-113 and take a 3-2 lead in the series. Game 6 is Friday night in Brooklyn, and the Nets need to win it to stay alive.
The Nets started off well, showing no ill effects from their loss in Game 4 at home on Sunday night. They led 40-36 on a Marcus Thornton three-point play with 5:26 to go in the second quarter. The rest of the second quarter belonged to Toronto.
The Raptors went on a big run, as Jonas Valanciunas started to heat up. He had a three-point play, and later faked out Kevin Garnett for an easy layup to make it 51-42 at the 2:21 mark. Garnett was pulled soon after, but it made no difference. Kyle Lowry made a jumper with 10 seconds left, and after Deron Williams took an offensive foul with 2 seconds left, Lowry drained a shot form near halfcourt to make tit 62-44 Raptors at halftime. This capped an incredible 26-4 run to close the first half.
It continued into the third quarter, as the Raptors continued to dominate. The Nets played some of their worst basketball of the season. It looked like a Nets Encore from November. It also was interesting to hear how the broadcast did not reflect what was happening, as the Nets were down over points, about the be on the brink of elimination, and Mike Fratello was doing his offbeat facts stuff.
The Raptors led by as many as 26 points, at 85-59 on Amir Johnson free throws with 3:29 left in the third. The Raptors took a 22-point lead into the fourth, at 91-69, and the reason it was not more was that Joe Johnson scored 18 of the Nets' 25 points in the third.
The Nets started the fourth quarter with Johnson, Deron Williams, Mirza Teletovic, Alan Anderson, and Andray Blatche on the floor, and Coach Jason Kidd finally found a unit that made some headway.
The quarter started with six points from Teletovic, a Johnson jumper, and a D-Will dunk that made it a 15-point game, 94-79, just a couple minutes into the fourth. A minute later, Anderson had a four-point play that cut to 13 at 96-83, and free throws from Blatche and Williams cut it to eight, 97-89 with six minutes left.
DeMar DeRozan hit a couple of free throws to make it 101-93 with 4:35 left. Over the next 1:17, the Nets went on an 8-0 run, with Johnson getting a three-point play and then draining a three to tie it at 1:01 with 3:16 left.
By this point, now that the Nets battled back and tied it with just over a few minutes left, one would think that Paul Pierce would be primed to enter the game and finish off the Raptors just like he did in Game 1 in Toronto. Kevin Garnett also could have come back in, but he has played so poorly, it was not a surprise that Kidd stuck with Blatche at center.
The same five remained on the court, and as if on cue, the guys that stayed in instead of Pierce made mistakes. Teletovic took a boneheaded foul on Lowry in the backcourt after the inbounds pass. Lowry went to the line and hit a pair of free throws. On the Nets' ensuing possession, Anderson took an offensive foul, and Toronto responded with a Greivis Vasquez three to make it 106-101 Raptors.
Later, Teletovic made a clutch three to tie the game at 106 with 1:23 left. Soon after, Lowry answered with a three of his own with 1:04 on the clock. Blatche made a nice move for a layup on a feed from Williams to make it 109-108, and Lowry of course followed with a short jumper to make it 111-108 Raptors with 27 seconds left.
27 seconds left...down three...on the road...Johnson only has three baskets in the fourth because of the double team...would seem a natural time for Paul Pierce....but you would be wrong. Coach Kidd stuck with the same five guys even though the only shooter out there was Johnson.
Pierce has earned the right to be on the court with the game on the line. I don't care what the other guys have done to get you back into it. This is what he was brought here for. He still has shown that he is the Pierce of old, single-handedly winning them Game 1 down the stretch. Pierce should have been brought in when it was tied with 3:16 left and the game tied, but certainly this was a case they needed shooters on the floor and it is insulting that he was not allowed to make his mark felt in this game.
The Nets wasted no time, as Johnson drove the lane and missed a running jumper with 20 seconds left. DeRozan was fouled on the rebound, and he went to the line and made it 113-108 with 17 seconds left.
The Nets were not done yet, as Anderson hit a three in the corner and was fouled by Amir Johnson to get to the line. His free throw made it a four-point play and that made it 113-112 Raptors with 9 seconds left. DeRozan was fouled on the inbounds, and hit two free throws to make it 115-112 with 6 seconds left. Don't worry, Kidd did not bring Pierce back in for this chance to tie it up either!
Raptors Head Coach Dwane Casey came up with the brilliant idea to foul the Net that receives the inbounds pass, and that was Andray Blatche, and he went to the line with four seconds left. Blatche hit the first free throw and missed the second, getting his own rebound, but firing it over the head of Williams for a backcourt violation that essentially ended the game.
Nets Head Coach Jason Kidd was asked afterwards why Pierce and Garnett were left on the bench in the fourth, and he said, "It's all about...I thought the guys on the floor were fighting and they got us back in the game and I've asked were they tired and those guys weren't tired, they wanted to continue to keep playing, so it was more of a rhythm and guys were knocking down shots, so we are deep, but the guys on the floor...Joe was causing a lot of problems on the floor, Deron and then Mirza, and then Double A (Alan Anderson) had two four-point plays in the fourth quarter. When you have guys playing and fighting the way they were, you leave them out there."