Apr 25, 2014, 11:43 PM EDT
NEW YORK — The second half regular season surge that the Nets put together entering the playoffs has the players believing that a championship run is a distinct possibility.
But it won’t happen if Brooklyn closes games in the postseason the way it did on Friday, before scraping by with a 102-98 Game 3 victory over the Raptors that gave them a 2-1 lead in the series.
The Nets went up by 15 points with five minutes remaining, on a possession that showcased the strength of this team, and why it should dispose of the Raptors eventually. The ball movement was exquisite between Paul Pierce and Deron Williams, before it eventually landed in the hands of Joe Johnson for a contested three that splashed home, and appeared to be the dagger that should have sent the Raptors away.
But Toronto battled back, and Brooklyn, at least for a stretch, collapsed under the pressure. Missed shots, turnovers, and a series of fouls put the game in jeopardy once again, and it was a strong effort by the Raptors to put together a 13-2 run to get within four points with 1:07 to play.
It was a two-point game with 20 seconds left, with Patrick Patterson heading to the line to try to tie it after a loose ball foul committed on a missed free throw attempt, something which the referees seemed to find objectionable multiple times throughout the game’s final period.
Patterson missed them both, however, and the Nets held on. But given the aspirations the team has, they know that the way the fourth quarter unfolded was far from acceptable.
“When you go out there, you search for perfection,” Pierce said afterward. “No game is perfect, but you want to come as close to it as possible. By no means did we close the game out like we wanted to. Even though we won the game, you want to do a better job because as the rounds go, as the games go on, teams figure out what you’re trying to do and teams get better. And if you go to the next round, you can’t afford to make those mistakes.”
Pierce referencing the next round is telling, since it would mean a matchup with the defending champion Miami Heat — a team the Nets beat in all four of their regular season meetings.
But they’ve got to get there first.
“We’ve got to understand, everything’s on the line right now,” Pierce said. “We can’t have these silly turnovers. We can’t have these silly fouls at the end of the game. It all comes down to inches.”
Last season’s Nets know all about that, after being eliminated in seven games in the first round by a Bulls team ravaged by injury, but that played with an insane amount of heart. Williams believes this year’s Nets team are capable of so much more.
“We’ve brought in guys that have championship experience,” he said. “We’ve brought in guys that have leadership, and it’s rubbing off on everybody. It’s contagious, and we enjoy playing with each other. Not to say we weren’t last year, but we’re enjoying the run. We had some struggles early on in the season, but we’ve righted that ship a little bit. Like I said, we’re trying to make a run.”
DeMar DeRozan went for 30 just as he did in Game 2, with a very similar statistical line that saw him shoot 8-of-22 from the field, but get to the line where he converted 13-of-15 free throw attempts. Kyle Lowry banged knees with someone early on and was clearly hobbling out there, but battled like crazy and managed to keep his team in it late with a couple of dazzling and-1 finishes before fouling out with 15 points in almost 38 minutes.
The lead was built to such a wide margin by the Nets because their three best players all had it going at the same time. Johnson, Williams and Pierce finished with 29, 22 and 18 points respectively, with each shooting better than 50 percent.
It was almost all for nothing after a series of late-game mishaps, a fourth quarter full of events that may have taken some of the luster off of what should have been a more positive victory. But that might ultimately work out in Brooklyn’s favor if it causes them to focus on all that’s ultimately at stake.
“It feels good to win, but at the same time, I know we can be a lot better,” Pierce said. “I’m looking down the road, when it’s like that Game 6 or 7, wherever we’re in that situation — [even] with this team. It’s going to come down to those little things and we need can’t afford those little small mistakes.”
Report: Spurs reach deal to trade Tiago Splitter to Hawks, create cap space for LaMarcus Aldridge offer
Jul 1, 2015, 12:03 PM EDT
The Spurs can now offer Aldridge the chance to return to his native Texas and walk right onto a serious title contender.
Jul 1, 2015, 11:45 AM EDT
That’s a great signing for San Antonio.
Report: Kobe Bryant was ‘very good’ in Lakers meeting with LaMarcus Aldridge, which went ‘really well’
Jul 1, 2015, 11:26 AM EDT
Lakers feel better about this one than previous meetings with Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard.
Jul 1, 2015, 10:38 AM EDT
This was expected. But what happens with Dwyane Wade?
Jul 1, 2015, 9:55 AM EDT
A bit of a surprise.
Jul 1, 2015, 9:54 AM EDT
Solid move by Chicago at an extremely reasonable price.
Report: Blazers, Damian Lillard nearing agreement on five-year max contract extension worth $120 million
Jul 1, 2015, 9:15 AM EDT
Lillard’s worth it, but Portland right now really had no choice.
Jul 1, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT
Prince played better than you’d think last season, but he will turn 36 this coming year.
Jul 1, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
Does putting Rajon Rondo, DeMarcus Cousins and George Karl in close proximity to each other for an entire NBA season seem like a good idea?
Jul 1, 2015, 3:11 AM EDT
The Bucks locked him up long-term after a breakout season.
Jul 1, 2015, 2:36 AM EDT
The Rockets have the right to match any offer.
Jul 1, 2015, 2:12 AM EDT
Lopez gets three years, $60 million; Young gets four years, $50 million.
Jul 1, 2015, 1:58 AM EDT
The Hawks, Nuggets and Kings are also interested.
Jul 1, 2015, 12:41 AM EDT
This was expected.
Jul 1, 2015, 12:39 AM EDT
A replacement for Nicolas Batum on the wing.
Jul 1, 2015, 12:15 AM EDT
Davis will be in New Orleans through at least 2020.
Jul 1, 2015, 12:13 AM EDT
Love said he was committed to Cleveland, now he is flirting with other teams.
Jun 30, 2015, 11:00 PM EDT
Kobe being in the room is not guaranteed, but it helps.
Jun 30, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT
I didn’t know he had that in him.
Jun 30, 2015, 9:01 PM EDT
The Clippers want him, but they have other, larger concerns.
- Report: Spurs reach deal to trade Tiago Splitter to Hawks, create cap space for LaMarcus Aldridge offer 4
- Report: Heat, Goran Dragic agree to five-year deal worth $90 million 34
- Report: Paul Millsap had midnight meeting with Orlando, will decide between Magic and Hawks 11
- Report: Blazers, Damian Lillard nearing agreement on five-year max contract extension worth $120 million 17
- Report: Kawhi Leonard, Spurs reach deal for five-year, $90 million contract extension 19
- Anthony Davis and Pelicans agree to five-year, $145 million contract extension 36
- Report: Kevin Love to meet with Lakers later in week 17
- Report: Lakers working to clear out more cap space to land both LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre Jordan 33