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.
Here are the key stats from Game One:
Offensive Rebounding percentage
Free throw rate
Effective Field Goal percentage
Opponent Effective Field Goal percentage
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?
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
- Brooklyn Nets Game Notes - Brooklyn Nets
- Toronto Raptors Game Notes - Toronto Raptors
- Nets vow not to let up in Game 2 vs. Raptors - Stefan Bondy - New York Daily News
- Attention in Toronto Only Encourages the Nets - Alex Raskin - Wall Street Journal
- Nets’ Anderson Has World of Experience in Pressure Situations - Andrew Keh - New York Times
- Minutes limit gives Paul Pierce fresh start - Mike Mazzeo - ESPN New York
- Mismatches abound with Johnson in post - Mike Mazzeo - ESPN New York
- Starting 5: D's first impression impressive - Mike Mazzeo - ESPN New York
- Game 2 odds aren't in Nets' favor Mike Mazzeo - ESPN New York
- Jason Kidd-Dwane Casey chess match will decide Game 2 - Ohm Youngmisuk - ESPN New York
- 2014 NBA Playoffs: Toronto Raptors looks for greater whistle equity - James Herbert - ESPN New York
- Johnson’s stature could help Brooklyn take 2-0 lead - Tim Bontemps - New York Post
- Raptors’ Valanciunas on why he’s immune to KG trash talk - Fred Kerber - New York Post
- Woodson praised by Kidd, Johnson - Marc Berman - New York Post
- Nets notes: Toronto defense will change defenses - Andy Vasquez - The Record
- NBA: Nets approach won't change - Andy Vasquez - The Record
- Nets’ three keys for Game 2 - Andy Vasquez - The Record
- DeRozan needs to be quicker … to pass - John Schuhmann - NBA.com
- Nets determined to get another win at Toronto - Rod Boone - Newsday
- Is Nets' depth too much of a good thing? Jason Kidd doesn't think so - Rod Boone - Newsday
- Opportunity looms as Nets try for 2-0 series lead against Raptors - Josh Newman - SNY Nets
- Landry Fields could guard Johnson, Pierce in Game 2 - Moke Hamilton - SNY Nets
Spanarkel's keys for the Nets in Game 2 - YES Network
- Nets-Raptors Game 2 TV Programming Update - Devin Kharpertian - The Brooklyn Game
- Justin Bieber Repping the Nets (oh, and the Raptors too?) - Devin Kharpertian - The Brooklyn Game
- RAPTORS VS. NETS: Game 2 - Frank Zicarelli - Toronto Sun
- Raptors' Jonas Valanciunas unfazed by his first playoffs - Mike Ganter - Toronto Sun
- Raptors could turn to Landry Fields in Nets series - Mike Ganter - Toronto Sun
- ‘I don’t run away from anything’: DeMar DeRozan’s perseverance pays off - Doug Smith - Toronto Star
- Paul Pierce's experience huge asset for Brooklyn Nets - Rod Boone for Toronto Star
- Raptors need to be wary of the "other" guys - Doug Smith - Toronto Star
- Raptors demanding respect from NBA, tired of shoddy treatment - Doug Smith - Toronto Star