Nets and Raptors battle for the series lead in Toronto

Hi Rihanna! - Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Now we're down to a best of three. The Nets couldn't lost the series lead ans the Toronto Raptors came away with an 87-79 win in Brooklyn.

The numbers

Here's what the teams have done this series as we enter Game Five:

2013-2014 playoffs

Brooklyn

Toronto

Pace

91.18 91.18

Offensive Efficiency

102.4 101

Defensive Efficiency

101 102.4

Offensive Rebounding percentage

19.1 28.9

Turnover rate

13 19.3

Assist rate

15.7 15.2

Rebound rate

44.3 55.7

Free throw rate

41.4 39.2

Effective Field Goal percentage

47.9 47.6

Opponent Effective Field Goal percentage

47.6 47.9

It was bound to happen eventually, but Joe Johnson had his first bad game of the series. Johnson led the team in scoring the first three games of the series, but only could score seven on Sunday night. He couldn't get anything going in the post as the Raptors through double teams at him and kept him off balance. Toronto's strategy has evolved throughout the series as they played him one-on-one in the early part and have moved to doubling him more often when he's in the low post. It'll be up to the Nets to make the counter-adjustment in Games Five, Six, and (if necessary) Seven. If the Raptors do continue to double, the Nets need to start making their three point field goals. After shooting well from deep in March and April, Brooklyn is shooting a playoff worst 25 percent from three point range.

In the first two games of the series, there were concerns about Toronto's poor late game execution. Over the last two, those concerns have shifted over to Brooklyn. The Nets had a few mistakes late in Game three but were able to overcome them. In Game Four, they weren't so lucky and got shut out over the final 4:43. Coming into the season, a bunch of us had the Nets making a deep run, so naturally the pressure is on them to win this game. Why? Let Reed explain:

Historically, the team with a 3-to-2 series lead wins the series nearly 86 percent of the time. If the Nets fail to pick up the win tomorrow in Toronto, it would be even more difficult to take one there in a Game 7 environment, no matter what former champions are suiting up for them. Brooklyn must show urgency on Wednesday, something that has been lacking in this series, and put forth that complete performance that Paul Pierce was referring to on Sunday. Pierce thought it was coming in Game 4, but it didn't, and now the Nets have their backs against the wall.

The Nets got shut out over the final 4:58 as the Raptor defense tightened up. Outside of Pierce and Mirza Teletovic, no one on the Nets consistently shot well throughout the game. Marcus Thornton is someone that can provide some scoring punch off the bench, but he struggled down the stretch of the regular season and hasn't done much during this series. Assuming the Nets fall into another dry spell on offense, he might make an extended appearance.

Demar DeRozan struggled from the floor once again, but did manage to get to the line eleven times. In the series, he's averaged eleven free throws a game and 24.5 points per game. He slowed down in the second half, but was the only option for the Raps in the first half. For the most part, Shaun Livingston and crew have kept the first time All Star stuck on the perimeter taking jumpers.

The Nets won (OK they tied) the rebounding battle, but they weren't able to force as many turnovers as they have throughout the series. Fortunately for the Nets, the Raptors didn't do much with those extra possessions, making only 41 percent of their field goal attempts. Neither team has been shooting well, but have made up for it by getting to the free throw line a ton.

Jonas Valanciunas has played well in the series, but foul trouble has been slowing him down. He only played 22 minutes but Patrick Patterson and Amir Johnson picked up the slack for JV. The Net trio of big men, Kevin Garnett, Mason Plumlee and Andray Blatche, will be tasked with slowing Valanciunas down, but so far haven't been able to do it. He's shooting 65 percent from the field and has averaged a double-double this series.

Through four games, Kyle Lowry has been winning the point guard matchup between himself and Deron Williams. Lowry has been more aggressive than Williams for most of this series, getting to the free throw line more than Williams and shooting better from the field as well. We talk about it all the time, but the Nets' best chance of advancing deep into the playoffs is when Williams is an active participant in the team's offense. Lowry is still dealing with a bad knee but that hasn't slowed him down yet.

Player to watch: Greivis Vasquez

The Raptors backup point guard has seen an increase in minutes due to the struggles of starting guard Terrence Ross this series. Ross only played 14 minutes while Vasquez played 34. Vasquez hasn't shot all that well, but compared to Ross, he's an improvement.

He's a good ballhandler and passer which works well when he's on the court with Lowry. When the two guards are on the court together, Toronto is averaging 109.2 points per 100 possessions. Vasquez had the best year of his four year (it feels like he's been in the NBA much longer) career after he got traded from Sacramento to the Raptors, and his success from three point range was a big part of that. That and his willingness to shoot in end-of-game situations will bode well for him if the game is close late. He isn't the greatest defender in the world, but Lowry and DeRozan will be responsible for that.

From the Vault

Game Five Nets-Raptors, except this time we're in 2007.


More reading: Raptors HQ

TV Coverage

The game will air on My9 in the New York area at 7:30 p.m. (new time).. Everywhere else, it will be on NBA TV.  After the  final buzzer in Toronto, there will be post-game coverage back on YES.

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