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Ugly Fourth Quarter Dooms Nets in Toronto, 105-89

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Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports

It was 'Drake Night' up in Toronto for Wednesday's Nets vs. Raptors matchup, no lint brushes included.

The last time the teams played was Game 7 of the playoffs last season, when Paul Pierce came up with a game-winning block on Kyle Lowry to silence to Toronto crowd and clinch a second round series with the Miami Heat. But things are a bit different now. The Raptors stand atop the Eastern Conference, averaging 107.2 points per game, which is second in the NBA, while the inconsistent Nets are still looking to discover their offensive game.

The rivalry of the two teams continues to evolve over the years. Since the Vince Carter transaction, the two teams have provided a surplus number of nail-biter endings. Not this time. The Raptors defeated the Nets 105-89, behind a big fourth quarter outburst. Brooklyn trailed by only three heading into the final quarter, but Toronto, on the back of Kyle Lowry, outscored Brooklyn 29-16 in what ultimately won them the game.

The night in a bundle: The Nets were down 15 when Joe Johnson was fouled from the three-point line. He missed all three free throws, giving the Toronto crowd even more reasons to bicker at the Nets. Following the squandered three points, Kyle Lowry scored on two consecutive baskets, increasing the lead to 19 with three minutes left. Game over.

The Nets finished the night 10-for-22 (45.5%) from the free throw line.

They saw success early in the night, scoring 30 points on 59% shooting in the first quarter. They led by eight, but like we've seen all season, their inability to play a complete 48 minute game has led to most - if not all - of their losses this season. And once again, it's the tale of the second half for the Nets. They were outscored 52-37 in the second half, finishing the night 43% from the field and 33% from three.

Perhaps, fatigue was a factor late in the game, but at this point -- the excuses are only a broken record.

To go along with that, the Nets tripled the Raptors with points in the paint in the first quarter. By games end, the Raptors owned a 56-44 advantage. They shot an astounding 50% from the field and 50% from three, while the Toronto bench also outscored Brooklyn's bench 41-20.

Kyle Lowry, who killed Brooklyn in the playoffs last season, was playing with a chip on his shoulder in this one. Back in the 2008-2009 season, Lowry was coached by Lionel Hollins who made him the second option behind Mike Conley. However, the Toronto point guard was the main facilitator of the Toronto offense Wednesday night, finishing the night with 20 points, 12 assists and two steals. He's averaging 19.6 points per game and has his team in sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference.

For Brooklyn, Mason Plumlee was one of the few stars. He scored 23 points, his career high, eight rebounds, two assists and two blocks. It's his fourth straight game in double figures and his second straight game with 20+ points, despite only scoring 20 or more once in his 95-game career.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Nets point guard Deron Williams seems to have gone missing again. He's struggled as of late, and his troubles glistened against the Raptors. At this point of his tenure here, it's no secret that the Nets can only go as far as Williams takes them, and thus far, it's been a stagnant movement. He finished the night with 11 points and seven assists on 5-of-15 shooting and five turnovers. It seems like Williams gets rattled late in games and turns the ball over at the most inconvenient times.

The Nets are now 1-12 against teams with .500 or better records.

Post-game, the comments were predictable...

"I know we’re a pretty good ball club, and we show it in spurts, whether it’s a quarter, two, three, but we’re just not putting together four great quarters," Joe Johnson said. "It’s hurting us, but we have to try to figure it out."

"They’re definitely headed in the right direction," Deron Williams said. "You talk about consistency, they’ve had the same players, the same group of guys. Last year was a learning experience for them, and now they’re taking it to the next level."

"We just started throwing the ball to them instead of us, or throwing the ball out of bounds," Nets coach Lionel Hollins said. "I can’t speak for why it happened.
"Some of it could have been because of their defense, but most of it was just bad decision making."

TIP INS: Joe Johnson (17 points, eight rebounds), Mirza Teletovic (14 points, 4-8 3pt.); Jonas Valanciunus (16 points, 10 rebounds), Amir Johnson (13 points, nine rebounds), Greivis Vasquez (13 points), Patrick Patterson (13 points).

Injury notes: Sergey Karasev (oblique), Kevin Garnett (rest). For Toronto, DeMar DeRozan (groin).

Quarter by quarter summary:

First quarter ... The Nets got the energetic start they were looking for. It was a 16-8 advantage for Brooklyn, when Deron Williams was forced to check out of the game earlier than usual after picking up two personal fouls. Mason Plumlee picked up the slack, though, scoring eight points on 4-for-4 shooting, helping add to the Nets' 18-6 scoring advantage in the paint. Mirza Teletovic helped as well, more so on the outside. He also finished with eight points on the quarter. The Nets as a whole, shot the ball at an astounding 59%.

Containing Kyle Lowry wouldn't be easy. He finished the first quarter with 10 points and five assists, but the Nets led, 30-22.

Second quarter ... The Nets cooled off in the second quarter. It wasn't a necessarily bad quarter for them, but their poor shooting enabled Toronto to work their way back into the game following an 8-0 run in the span of 1:30 minutes, tying the game at 44 with 2:30 remaining in the half, then eventually gaining a one point lead with under one minute remaining in the half.

The Nets' once 59% shooting decreased to 43% after the second quarter, while Toronto was 48.7% overall with an even more impressive 57% from three. The Raptors scored 18 points in the paint during the second quarter, with Amir Johnson helping the cause. He, along with Lowry, scored in double digits with 11 points and five rebounds, while Lowry led all scorers with 14 points and six assists. They outscored Brooklyn 31-22 in the quarter. For Brooklyn, Mason Plumlee scored 12 points, four rebounds and blocked two shots. Joe Johnson was the other lone Net in double figures with 11 points on 5-for-11 shooting.

The score at the half: Raptors 53, Nets 52.

Third quarter ... Jonas Valanciunas got cookin'. He scored eight points within the first 5:30 of the second half. He was killing the Nets on the inside, scoring a total of 16 points and 10 rebounds. His adversary, Mason Plumlee, emerged as the real star, though. He was heading into the fourth quarter with 20 points, seven rebounds and one block. It's his second consecutive night with 20+ points. He, along with Joe Johnson (17 points) and Mirza Teletovic (14 points) were keeping the Nets alive.

The Raptors led 76-73.

Fourth quarter ... The Nets and Raptors looked to be in the making of another classic heading into the fourth, but it was a very sudden mirage. The Raptors jumped out to a 19-8 start to the final frame, claiming their largest lead of the night at 14 with 4:12 remaining in the game. Deron Williams was struggling. He committed five turnovers and his body language was as pessimistic as we've seen all year.

The night in a bundle: Down 15, Joe Johnson was fouled from the three-point line. Johnson missed all three free throws, allowing the Toronto crowd to triumph -- then triumph more after two consecutive buckets from Lowry. They were down 18 with three minutes left. Game over.

Final score: Raptors 105, Nets 89.

For more on the Toronto Raptors, check them out at Raptors HQ.