Raptors try to end Nets' season in Brooklyn

Whatever you about to discover, we off that. - Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Win or stay home. The Nets fell behind by as much as 26 points, fought all the way back to tie the game late, but couldn't get over the hump and lost a heartbreaker in Toronto 115-113. If they win, they head back to Toronto for Game Seven on Sunday. If they lose, what promised to be a Championship caliber season will end in bitter disappointment.

The numbers

Through five games, here's how these teams have done:

2013-2014

Brooklyn

Toronto

Pace

91.94 91.94

Offensive Efficiency

106.3 104.7

Defensive Efficiency

104.7 106.3

Offensive Rebounding percentage

20.5 28.6

Turnover rate

13.6 18.1

Assist rate

16.1 15.5

Rebound rate

44.9 55.1

Free throw rate

41.1 40.8

Effective Field Goal percentage

50.5 49.3

Opponent Effective Field Goal percentage

49.3 50.5

To give you an idea of how disastrous a first round elimination at home (again) would be, let me turn things over to Reed Wallach:

The Nets are the biggest investment in basketball history. After getting thoroughly beat by a bruised and battered team that had twice the heart Brooklyn did, the Nets went out and acquired aging veterans who exemplified heart and championship qualities. They were the antithesis of the CBA, spending as much as they see fit and giving a middle finger to the luxury tax. Mikhail Prokhorov said he was going to win a championship with this team, and he has been hell bent on doing so.

Now, after everything that has happened, national TV embarrassments, injuries, bad promotions, the Nets have gone from being the top challenger to the Heat's title reign to being 48 minutes away from shining their golf shoes in about two weeks.

The person who figures to be front and center should the Nets get knocked out in Round One is Deron Williams. We've been hearing "Deron needs to be more aggressive" for months, and yet, he hasn't been all that aggressive for much of this series. He had a bad first half, but did make up for it by scoring 10 points in the fourth quarter and was on the court for Brooklyn's comeback attempt. If he can play like he did during the first half of Game One (aggressive and looking to drive to the basket at every open opportunity), then the Nets' chances of winning will dramatically increase. He hasn't been awful per se, but he's the team's most important player and after having a (mostly) great second half of the season, has cooled down at the worst possible time.

When the Nets made the move to acquire Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in the summer, their Championship pedigree and successes in late game situations were two of the major selling points. However, they didn't play all that well and had the worst +/- in the game and didn't see the court for the entire fourth quarter. This stands out for Garnett, who has been on a minutes restriction all season, presumably so that he could be 100 percent for the playoffs. However, Jason Kidd hasn't deviated from that plan as of yet. With the season on the line, now would be the perfect time to have Garnett play some more minutes.

Game Four aside, Joe Johnson has had a tremendous series. JJ scored 36 points, made three from downtown, didn't commit a turnover and for large parts of the game on Wednesday was the only member of the Nets doing anything productive. Going into the year, the knock on him was that he has always underachieved in the postseason, but he's doing his best to shake that reputation. Johnson has only gotten to the free throw line 20 times this series, which doesn't sit well with coach Kidd. With Mirza Teletovic starting to heat up, Toronto may not be so quick to double team Johnson when he's in the low post.

He only played 24 minutes, but Jonas Valanciunas had another great game. The second year player from Lithuania punished Brooklyn near the basket, scoring 10 of his 16 points inside of eight feet. He's seen his minutes decline in the series as Raps coach Duane Casey has saw fit to use Amir Johnson and Patrick Patterson more often. Valanciunas' decrease in minutes has led to the Nets evening up the rebounding battle, but the Raptors are willing to accept the trade-off. The trio of Garnett, Mason Plumlee and Andray Blatche haven't been able to slow him down and if the first five games are any indication, they won't do it here either.

The big improvemrnt for Demar DeRozan was where he was taking his shots. He was stuck in he midrange area for Games Three and Four, but eight of his 12 FGAs came from inside eight feet. Most impressively, he got to the free throw line 13 more times. Derozan has attempted 61 free throws in the series, and to put that in proper perspective, that's almost as much as Brooklyn's top three (Williams, Johnson and Blatche at 67) in FTAs combined. On defense, he's working hard but is overmatched when he has to cover Johnson in the low post. John Salmons and Landry Fields have had to guard Johnson at points in this series, but they shouldn't see much time on the court in a game of this magnitude.

One encouraging trend for the Raptors (and discouraging one for Brooklyn) as the series has progressed has been the amount of times Toronto has turned the ball over. After averaging 18 turnovers a contest in the first three games of the series, Toronto has only been averaging 10.5 turnovers a game in the past two (both wins). The series has been played at a slow pace and managing possessions takes on even more importance than usual. The Nets excelled at forcing turnovers throughout the regular season and have to get back to doing it at a high rate.

We've been talking about late game execution all series, and it loomed large for both teams on Wednesday evening. The Raptors blew the big lead, but managed to make clutch baskets to hold onto their lead. As for the Nets, this


overshadowed what was an amazing comeback. That's the way it goes.

Player to watch: Kyle Lowry

It's been pretty clear that Lowry has been the best point guard on the court this series. KL had the game of his life on Wednesday, tying his career high of 36 points, cashing in on six three pointers (including this one to end the first half), committing only one turnover and making clutch baskets in 38:22 of game time. On the other side Williams has played decently but hasn't been able to match Lowry. Lowry has got Deron beaten in major statistical category this series. Good thing James Dolan turned down the opportunity to acquire Lowry for his Knicks.

You couldn't tell by the way he's been playing, but Lowry is still dealing with a knee injury. The Nets have played him very physically throughout the series, but that hasn't slowed him down all that much. One of the big changes in Lowry's game has been in the amount of three pointers taken. He averaged career highs in three pointers attempted and efficiency and hasn't slowed down from deep. Terrence Ross figures to cover Williams when he's in, but once the game gets late, that'll be Lowry's job. When Williams does look to post up, Lowry's size and strength will throw him off and won't need help from a double team. His ability to cover Williams without help will keep Raptor defenders on the Nets' good three point shooters.

From the Vault

The Raptors have only reached Game Six twice in their franchise history. Here's one that they won:


More reading: Raptors HQ

TV Coverage

The game starts at 7:00 PM and if you want to hear the local broadcasters, tune to Channel Nine and WCBS 880 AM radio. Nationally, it's airing on ESPN2. And for postgame coverage, head to the YES Network. The crowd should come through loud and clear after they got shaded on Wednesday night.

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