Paul Pierce — who wasn’t expected to play because of a sore shoulder — hit a huge three-pointer with 1:14 left to give the Nets their eighth straight home win. Pierce scored 10 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter, the final point coming in the final second of the game at the free-throw line while fans stood and chanted his name. He also came up with a steal with 25 seconds remaining when Terrence Ross lost the ball. “He’s a competitor,” Nets coach Jason Kidd said. “No matter what position he plays, no matter what his health is, he’s out there trying to help the team win. He was big tonight.”
Over in one corner, DeMar DeRozan tossed a bottle to the ground and then turned away when people looked over. Confronted with the moment when it went definitively wrong — an overwrought five-on-four that ended with Terrence Ross losing the ball in a thicket — John Salmons shrugged as if he couldn’t remember the play. “What happened? I don’t know.” He knows. He just didn’t care to talk about it. When offered his chance to explain, Ross took a pass. Everyone gets a few of those. Ross just used all of his up. From now on, we’re on post-season footing. It’s ultimately pointless to play oracle, but it’s too tempting after Monday night. The Raptors had a 12-point lead early. They erased a 13-point deficit late. They lost 101-97, thanks in large part to Paul Pierce reprising his role as Methuselah in the fourth quarter.
“I knew the implications of this game. Maybe if it was a different type of game, (I sit out),” Pierce said. “But this was one of our biggest games of the year. Division rival, a lot on the line tonight, so you can always pen me in with those type of games.” Pierce was all over the floor in the final 12 minutes of the game, hitting a pair of shots beyond the arc, making four free throws and stealing the ball twice. The victory was critical for the Nets, who lost to Toronto last time they played, on Jan. 27, after Williams turned the ball over on an inbounds play with 12 seconds left and Patrick Patterson hit the eventual game-winner with 6 seconds left on the clock. “This was a big game. It give us the split,” Williams said. “We didn’t want them to get three up on us in case of tiebreakers. We gained a full game on them. That much closer to catching them.”
With the game tied at 94 and the ball in Brooklyn’s hands, Pierce and Deron Williams traded off attacking the basket before Williams found Pierce behind the three-point line. Pierce, well-contested by Kyle Lowry, buried the go-ahead jumper, putting the Nets up for good. Pierce wasn’t even supposed to play, but told Kidd earlier in the day he was good to go, and finished with 15 points and a team-high four steals. Pierce said that the play was originally designed to get the ball in either Williams’s or Joe Johnson’s hands, but that he’s always prepared for those moments. “I think it’s just confidence,” he said. “I’ve been that way since I was two years old, so I can’t help it.” Upon thinking of himself as a toddler burying clutch shots, Pierce laughed. I asked him how many game-winners he hit at two years old. “I remember my first game-winner,” he responded, “at eight months old. And it just grew from there.”
97-96 with 22 seconds, the Nets identity came into play. With a one point lead, Paul Pierce came up with his fifth steal of the game, leading to two converted free throws from Shaun Livingston. On the other end, Kyle Lowry took a contested shot which he missed,which eventually led to a 101-97 Nets victory. The victory puts the Nets just 3 games behind the division leading Raptors. Deron Williams & Shaun Livingston led the Nets with 18 points apiece, but behind Paul Piere’s 5 steals, the Nets escaped this game with a trilling victory. It was one of the best — if not the best victory of the year.
The Raps answered back and chipped away at the Nets lead late in the third as they went on a small run. During the fourth quarter, Toronto was always in close range with Brooklyn, but it was only until three minutes left in the game that the Dinos knotted the score thanks to some huge plays by Kyle Lowry. However down the stretch, Toronto couldn’t execute in clutch moments, and Paul Pierce hit a back-breaking three-pointer with Lowry in his face to put the Nets up for good. Toronto had its chances, but the Brooklyn Nets won a critical game with a final score of 101-97.
“We had some crucial turnovers,” Casey said. “Again, playoff type of basketball with physicality, I’ve said it forever that we have to get ready to play that style of basketball. We had three big-time turnovers because they got into us at the end of the game. That’s when you got to get into the defence (physically) and make plays. “(But) we’ve got to stay positive. It’s not the end of the world. We weren’t going to go undefeated the rest of the way. We knew that. This team here in Brooklyn is a championship-caliber team. They know the plays to make to win games. We’ve still got to learn that. We’re on our way but we still have some learning to do.” The Raptors aren’t great against savvy, tough, aggressive teams like Brooklyn or Chicago and also got a taste of a playoff-type atmosphere in the fourth, when the crowd got amped. Williams said the building was the loudest it’s been all season.
The Raptors have been one of this season’s pleasant surprises—a team many believed would be looking to unload its assets ahead of this summer’s highly anticipated draft, but instead finds itself firmly in the playoff fold. Unfortunately, according to NBA.com’s David Aldrige, all of this might be moot: “The Raptors do not want to give Lowry a big-money contract this summer along the lines of what other point guards who’ve signed extensions recently: Denver’s Ty Lawson (four years, $48 million), Golden State’s Stephen Curry (four years, $44 million) or New Orleans’ Jrue Holiday (four years, $41 million from Philadelphia).”
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