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Raptors top weary Nets, 96-80

Predictably, the Nets run out of gas.

Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The Nets roared out of the locker room after the half tonight in the Air Canada Centre with defensive intensity on their minds.

They forced bad shots, hit the boards, and got offensive contributions from Alan Anderson and Paul Pierce.  All of a sudden, a five point halftime deficit had swelled to a ten point advantage - and the red-hot Nets looked to be one step closer to supplanting the Raptors atop the Atlantic division.

Then the engine shut off, and the Nets' 2014 freight train coasted silently to a halt.

The Raptors' 26-3 run spanning the 3rd and 4th quarters wasn't a huge surprise.  The Nets played a long, taxing, double OT game against the World Champion Miami Heat last night in the Barclays Center.  After an emotional win, they traveled overnight to Toronto - arriving at their hotel after 4 am.  They entered the game with several players on minutes restrictions and missing starting center Kevin Garnett, who gave everything he had last night against the Heat.

There were some highlights for the Nets. Pierce had another solid effort with 15 points on 5-9 shooting in only 31 minutes.  Mason Plumlee got his first NBA start in place of Garnett, and while his offense wasn't all that effective (3-5, 6 points), he did play with a lot of energy and recorded four blocks.  Anderson and Mirza Teletovic each had short bursts where they brought the Nets back from deficits.

DeMar DeRozan, the Raptors' season leader in scoring, was the game's only offensive standout.  He poured in 26 on 8-16 shooting and at times seemed to be playing at a higher speed than everyone else on the court.  He finished the 3rd quarter by scoring the last seven points and helping deal the Nets that knockout blow.

The loss drops the Nets to an 8th place tie with the Charlotte Bobcats for the East's final playoff spot.  They are now four games behind Toronto for the Atlantic Division lead.

The Nets are off until Thursday, when they will take on the Atlanta Hawks in London.  That game has a 3 pm EST start.  Mark your calendars!