The Brooklyn Nets knocked off the Toronto Raptors on Friday night, 102-98, to take a 2-1 series lead in their first-round playoff matchup. One narrative being tossed about heading into Game 3 in Brooklyn was whether or not the Nets fans would be as lively and raucous as Raptors fans were in the first two games of the series. Early on, it didn't seem as if they stood a chance.
However, late in the second quarter one after-the-whistle moment from Kevin Garnett got the crowd hyped, loud and on its feet. And from there, things took a turn for the better, and the fans exhibited an energy that carried on throughout the remainder of the game.
The setup is simple. With less than a minute to play in the first half and the Nets carrying a 47-41 lead, Deron Williams picked the ball from Terrence Ross who tried to take D-Will off the dribble. The ball scooted toward halfcourt when both Williams and Ross dove to pick it up. Then, a few steps behind, came a diving Kevin Garnett who picked up the ball after Ross kicked it. Whistle blown, hype ensues.
ESPN's Ryan Ruocco gives us the "jersey pop" call.
It was a defining moment, for sure. The crowd was being criticized across varying social media platforms for most of the first half for not living up to the intensity level that we saw in Toronto. That was, until this moment.
In fairness, you can't necessarily blame the crowd for sitting on its hands. Hype is, always, a give and take, as Deron Williams noted after the game.
"We feed off them, they feed off us," Williams said referring to the crowd's energy. "I thought our crowd was great tonight, and they'll continue to be great," he said. It's hard to disagree with Williams' statement. The reality is, you can't expect the crowd to out-hype the players on the court. That just doesn't happen in basketball.
For all the slack we gave Raptors' GM Masai Ujiri for his "F--- Brooklyn!" rallying cry, in the end it was the defining moment Raptors fans needed, and they were able to feed off of it. Speaking to a crowd of thousands before Game 1, Ujiri fed off the fans, then excited and enticed them -- the give and take -- and spurred a moment that they could carry into the Air Canada Centre. It was fuel on a fire that needed to be lit.
Garnett's "jersey pop" was exactly that for Nets fans. It was the give that they needed to take. And they took it, ran with it, and turned the Barclays Center into the loud, raucous playoff atmosphere they promised it would be.
This was their "F--- Brooklyn!" moment. Except, you know, a little more family friendly.