The Toronto Raptors and Brooklyn Nets came into game three of their first round series tied at one after two physical battles in Toronto. In their first two meetings the Nets guards exposed the Raptor’s perimeter defense. That trend continued in Brooklyn’s first home playoff game of the season.
For the second straight game the Raptors came out on top after the first quarter, as they led the Nets 23-19 heading into the second. In the second quarter the Nets guards took over, as Joe Johnson and Deron Williams led the Nets to a 49-45 lead at the half.
The Nets carried their momentum into the third quarter, as they outscored the Raptors 28-21 and took a 77-66 lead heading into the final frame. The Nets continued to pad that lead as they held a 93-78 advantage with just over four minutes to go in the final frame.
That’s when Patrick Patterson helped lead the Raptors on a huge run to cut the lead to 97-93 with 40 seconds left to play. A three-point play by DeMar DeRozan cut the lead to one. Then it came down to free throws. Shaun Livingston knocked down a pair to put Brooklyn up 98-96. It was up to Patrick Patterson to answer for the Raptors, but Patterson missed two in a row from the charity stripe.
Brooklyn would knock down their final free throws and hold on to win the game 102-98. Joe Johnson and Deron Williams torched the Raptors defense as they combined for 51 points on 18 of 31 shooting. Paul Pierce also had a solid game for the Nets as he finished with 18 points on just 9 shots from the field.
The Nets shot 49.3 percent from the field for the game and had consistent drives to rim for the entirety of the game. Despite nearly losing a 15 point lead in the fourth quarter, the Nets controlled the pace and play of the game for three and a half quarters and they will be happy to have a 2-1 series lead heading into game four.
For the Raptors, the same issue became apparent for the third straight game. The Raptors committed 19 turnovers in game three and have now committed 59 in their first three playoff games. If the Raptors do not settle down and take advantage of every offensive possession it will be difficult for them to win on the road or at home.
DeRozan finished with 30 points for the second consecutive game for the Raptors, while Terrence Ross was held to five points. Ross has scored just 10 points in all three games combined in this series, and he will need to come through on the offensive end if the Raptor’s are to come away with a road victory in game four.
After getting dominated on the boards in game three, the Nets put together a better effort on the glass, as they were only outrebounded 35-29. While the Raptors Jonas Valanciunas did earn his third consecutive double-double, his opportunities were limited on the offensive end, as the Nets held him to just four shot attempts.
If Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and Paul Pierce continue to be as efficient offensively for the remainder of the series, it will be difficult for Toronto to come out with a victory. The Raptors have been unable to contain the three-headed beast of Johnson, Williams and Pierce, as they have had clear paths to the rim time and time again.
Game four will be played in Brooklyn on Sunday with the Raptor’s in a near must win scenario. If they fall down 3-1 to the Nets, it will be a tall order for them to win three in a row against a squad with as much playoff experience as Brooklyn.
Commentary By Eric Kummel