Nets go for the 2-0 series lead in Toronto

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn't the prettiest game, but style doesn't matter much as long as you win. The Nets were able to overcome a red hot Toronto crowd and sneak away with a 94-87 victory in the opener to the 2014 Playoffs. This one starts at 7:30 and will air on the YES Network and NBATV for those outside of the tri-state area.

The numbers

Here are the key stats from Game One:

Game One

Brooklyn

Toronto

Pace

93.44 93.44

Offensive Efficiency

100.1 93.5

Defensive Efficiency

93.5 101

Offensive Rebounding percentage

15.9 21.1

Turnover rate

9.6 20.4

Assist rate

13.7 17.9

Rebound rate

45.1 54.9

Free throw rate

33.8 35.2

Effective Field Goal percentage

45 45.1

Opponent Effective Field Goal percentage

45.1 45

From March first til the end of the season, the Nets shot 38.5 percent from three point range, good for fourth best in the league. Which makes it all the more surprising that they were so, so cold from deep on Saturday. After starting 3-4 from downtown, they went 1-20 the rest of the way.

The one three pointer came from Paul Pierce and he was critical down the stretch. Although he only scored 15 points, he scored nine of them in the fourth, and his three pointer (freed up thanks to a spiffy Kevin Garnett screen) with 2:58 left made it a two possession game. The privilege of having a player like Pierce is that he's a reliable scorer in late game situations and won't be thrown off if he has had a poor shooting night. It's what he does.

Coming into the series, we were wondering which of the Brooklyn big men would see the most minutes. Garnett won out, but didn't play well until late in the fourth quarter. Mason Plumlee couldn't make that much of a contribution as he was saddled with foul trouble, and Andray Blatche continued his recent struggles over the past month and picked up a silly technical for shoving Kyle Lowry. That order should stay the same for this game and the rest of the series. Much to the surprise of Andrei Kirilenko, Mrs. AK & the people watching, he didn't make it into the game.

Deron Williams started off very well, but cooled off considerably. He was 6-11 from the field when I said he was playing spectacularly. After that, he went 2-9. My bad y'all. One positive about Williams' afternoon (and one he alluded to during his halftime interview with ESPN's Chris Broussard and Lowry during the postgame) was that he was way more aggressive than usual. Williams had his lowest usage rate since the 2005-2006 season, his rookie year with the Utah Jazz. Of his 20 field goal attempts, nine came from the lane/restricted area. He also got to the free throw line six times, making all of them.

Jonas Valancianus had a great game for the most part. He had 17 points and 18 rebounds as he helped the Raps win the rebounding battle. However, he did commit a season (tying) high six turnovers in his 35 minutes. Despite those turnovers, the Raptors can live with it as long as JV can continue to control the glass and make his shots on the inside.

Lowry played reasonably well. The Raptors point guard was continually aggressive as he drove to the basket at every turn and kept the pressure on Brooklyn defenders. He also worked to keep his teammates involvedLike a lot of Raptors, Lowry had a turnover problem. Toronto coughed it up 17 times, with Lowry responsible for five of them. Even though they lost, the Raptors have reason to be encouraged for this game. They committed more turnovers than usual, a lot of their key players were making their playoff debuts, and they still hung in against Brooklyn.

Over at Raptors HQ, Zach Salzmann mentioned something I think we should keep an eye on as this series progresses:

Execution late in close games has been a massive problem for the Raps all season. What happened yesterday may have been a result of nerves -- tensing up on the biggest of stages -- but it looked an awful lot like what we've witnessed from the Raps in many tight games this year.

Player to Watch: DeMar DeRozan

DeRozan had a solid All Star regular season, but a disastrous playoff debut. He only shot 3-13 and only got to the rim four times. The combination of Shaun Livingston and Alan Anderson kept him on the perimeter and forced him into tough jumpers. On the bright side, DeRozan got to the free throw line eight times (made all eight) was able to hold Joe Johnson to 1-5 shooting when he was assigned to him on defense. One change the Raptors made as the game progressed was doubling Johnson in the post and they figure to do that again. Johnson has the size advantage over DeRozan and Terrence Ross and should continue to use it to his benefit. Provided Ross doesn't get in foul trouble, we won't be seeing much of John Salmons again.

What can help him shake Livingston in Game Two? Raptors head coach Duane Casey has an idea:

"We’ve got to do a better job of giving him space to react," Casey said. "The screens have to be more physical, more meaningful than just going over, hoping he hits me. We’ve got to be as physical as they were with us on their screens. They got pieces of us on their screen and we didn’t do that. Our big guys have to set man-size screens for him to get open. But he’s got to do a better job, [his] preparation to use the screens has to be better."

The overwhelming majority of DeRozan's FGAs came from the midrange, and the Nets hope that trend continues this Tuesday evening. With the Raptors placing more of an emphasis on getting DeRozan good looks, Livingston and Anderson (maybe Kirilenko too if he gets in) will need to be extra diligent on defense. One of the things Anderson attributed to the Nets' improvement on defense as compared to the early portion of the year was more communication on defense. The game on Saturday was very physical (which is a great thing!) so look for the Nets to rough him up as he heads to the rim.

From the Vault

On the ESPN broadcast, I heard the broadcasters mention that Valancianus was the second Raptors player to have a double-double in his playoff debut. The first?


TV Coverage

YES will air the game exclusively in the New York area. The NBA TV feed will be blacked out in the area. Game 3 is still on My9 and Game 4 will be on YES. Both games will also be televised nationally.

More reading: Raptors HQ

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