Big game, big win for Nets as they take down the division-leading Raptors 101-97; Trail just 3 games back from 3rd seed

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

A highly anticipated, Atlantic Division matchup took place at the Barclays Center tonight, as the Nets went up against the division leading Raptors. With a loss, the division title could almost be eliminated from the Nets equation this season.

The Brooklyn Nets are on the rise. They entered Monday's game with the Raptors winners of five of their last six, with a 31-30 record. But they were going up against the division leading Toronto Raptors in hopes of narrowing their four-game deficit in the Atlantic Division standings. This matchup has posed problems for the Nets all season, as the Raptors have won two of the last three games they've played against each other this year.

So far, this was the biggest game of the year. It was crunch time in the Brooklyn Nets season.

Injury notes: Kevin Garnett missed his seventh straight game due to back spasms. Andrei Kirilenko sat out as well due to an ankle sprain. The Nets are 9-20 when Kirilenko sits. Paul Pierce, who's been dealing with a nagging shoulder injury, suited up tonight.

Despite all that, the Nets cut into the Raptors Atlantic Division lead with a 101-97 victory over Toronto, led by Pierce, the man who no one, including Jason Kidd expected to play. They now trail just three games in the Atlantic Division.

The Nets were put in a difficult situation the second they heard their two best defensive players would be out. It was very clear that defense had holes in the first quarter. The Raptors' were exploiting these holes, behind the likes of Terrence Ross, who finished the quarter with 12 points. On the defensive side, the Raptors held the Nets to 40% shooting, leading Brooklyn 30-19 after the first quarter.

Down 11 to start the second quarter meant it was catch up time for the Nets. Not how they envisioned the start to their most important game of the year.

Catch up they needed, catch up they did. Through the entire quarter, the Nets were inching their way back into the game. The Raptors led by as much as 12, before the Nets came storming back with a 14-6 advantage to end the quarter.

The score at halftime: 51-50 in favor of the Raptors. The Nets owned the second quarter with a 31-21 scoring advantage, heading into the second half with great momentum. Despite being held scoreless in the second quarter, Terrence Ross still led all scorers with 12 points.

Quick first half stat: Behind Alan Anderson's eight points, the Nets bench played a huge contribution in the comeback, combining for 21 of the 50 first half points.

The third quarter started off in a chess match -- back & forth, exchanging buckets, until finally the Nets gained their biggest lead of the game (4) a little less than six minutes into the quarter. The three from Joe Johnson ignited a little more than a four point lead, as the Nets hit three more three-pointer's to suddenly find a 13 point lead, behind the lead of Deron Williams and Joe Johnson.

The big lead didn't last long. The Raptors answered with a 11-0 run of their own, ending the quarter with a 13-5 scoring advantage. Through three quarters, the Nets led: 78-73.

The playoff-like atmosphere continued in the fourth quarter. A fast-paced game with a loud Barclays crowd, the Nets and their fans knew this was the most important 12 minutes of the season.

Halfway through the quarter, Deron Williams who led all scorers in the fourth, picked up his fifth foul. The foul sent Williams to the bench earlier than usual, forcing Jason Kidd to pick his options off the bench.

As they reached the late stages of the quarter, the teams were yet again exchanging buckets. It was 94-94 with two minutes remaining. "Brooklyn" chants were raining down from the crowd. As the shot clock was winding down, Deron Williams penetrated and kicked to a contested  Pierce who knocked down the biggest shot of the game. They don't call him "The Truth" for nothing. The score was 97-94, still, a whole 1:14 remaining.

The score was 97-96 with 22 seconds. It was then the Nets identity came into play. With a one point lead, 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, eventually leading to a 101-97 Nets victory. The victory puts the Nets just three games behind the division leading Raptors.

Deron Williams and Shaun Livingston led the Nets with 18 points apiece, but behind Paul Pierce's five 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 Nets will be back on the road this Wednesday, where they face off against Lebron James and the Miami Heat.

For more on the Raptors, check them out at Raptors HQ.

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