The Raptors look to even the series against the Nets

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Halfway home. Returning home after splitting the first two games in Toronto and in front of a raucous home crowd, the Nets were able to beat the Raptors and take the 2-1 lead in this best of seven series. A win Sunday would put the Nets in a commanding position ... and put them on a collision course with the Heat who are now 3-0 vs. the Bobcats.

At shootaround Sunday morning, Paul Pierce was optimistic...

The Numbers

Here are the key stats for this series:

2013-2014 playoffs

Brooklyn

Toronto

Pace

92.42 92.42

Offensive Efficiency

106 101.8

Defensive Efficiency

101.8 106

Offensive Rebounding percentage

17.8 31.8

Turnover rate

11.3 21.1

Assist rate

15.9 15.8

Rebound rate

42.1 57.9

Free throw rate

41.1 42.1

Effective Field Goal percentage

49.1 48.4

Opponent Effective Field Goal percentage

48.4 49.1

On the injury front, Andray Blatche hurt his knee during the game, but came back later and will play in Game Four.

For the third straight game, Joe Johnson carried the Nets offense. Coming into the series, his ability to have success in the post was something that the Nets would have to fall back on if the offense started to struggle. He was at his best on the inside, making four of his five attempts inside of eight feet and six shots total inside the painted area. After the game, he said:

"I was just being patient. Throughout the first half I saw them coming at me with the double-team so I was just trying to make the right play for my teammates and we were rolling early. In the second half, it opened up and I got a couple easy looks."

Joining in on the fun was Deron Williams. He had his best game in a while, scoring 22 points with eight assists and only two turnovers in his 36:18 on the court. Having Williams playing at a high level will help keep this offense afloat & from staying in prolonged droughts.

One of the things that's been discussed in the analysis of this series has been late game execution. Throughout the year, and even in this series, Toronto had difficulty closing out games. However, it was the Nets that had issues late. Brooklyn missed couple of free throws late and almost blew their double digit lead. They blew a game late against the Raptors during the regular season, so we're gonna have to keep an eye on how they close things out if the game is close.

One way to keep it close on the glass is to keep the opponent's best rebounder on the bench saddled with foul trouble. The Raptors still won the rebounding battle, but the margin would have been much bigger if Jonas Valanciunas was able to play more than 29:35. JV still played well, collecting his third straight double-double and committing only two turnovers (he coughed it up 11 times in Toronto).

DeMar DeRozan scored 30 again, but the Nets can live with it (again).  He only shot 9-22, but got to the free throw line 15 times, making 13. The majority of his field goal attempts came from the midrange, but he only made three of them. Shaun Livingston and the rest of the Nets have done a great job shutting down the first time All Star, and will happily settle with him taking jumpers all night. One person that needs to help him is Terrence Ross. Through three games, he hasn't done much of anything and was a -15 on Friday night. He might need to come off the bench, but the Raps don't really have much to turn to. Here's Eric Koreen of the National Post with more:

If Casey had a simple alternative, perhaps I would think differently. However, he could start Vasquez, who is already carrying a heavy playmaking load off of the bench; John Salmons, who has a bad back and is not a discernible upgrade on Ross; Landry Fields, whom the Nets essentially do not guard because of his offensive shortcomings; or a third big man, like Patterson or Tyler Hansbrough, something the Raptors have no experience doing. Starting Ross, and having him come alive, has the greatest upside for the Raptors.

Side note: If you want a quick explanation as to why Bryan Colangelo was so terrible, just look at Fields' contract.

Player to watch: Kyle Lowry

The Raptors point guard banged his knee on Friday night, but he'll be out there Sunday evening. If Lowry is adversely affected by his knee or finds himself in foul trouble again, Grevis Vasquez will take his place. Vasquez has done well coming off the bench and figures to be on the court if the game is close late.

He only shot 4-9 from the floor, but did make all three of his paint shots and make six free throws. He's done well when he's driven to the basket and put pressure on the Net big men. In the three games, Lowry has gotten to the  foul line 18 times. A big problem for Toronto this series has been the amount if turnovers they've committed. Like the rest of the team, Lowry cut down on them in Game Three, but the Raps were still above their season averages. Surprisingly, Toronto has been much worse as a team per 100 possessions with Lowry on the court this series, but we should remember he's only sat out 24 minutes of action. On defense, KL will be tasked with slowing Williams down. He's got enough quickness to keep up with him on the perimeter and can use his size to hassle Deron once he ventures into the low post.

From the Vault

The last time the Raptors were down 2-1 to a New York team was in 2001. Vince Carter made sure to remedy that:


More reading: Raptors HQ

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