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NBA Playoffs: Brooklyn stands up! Nets drop Raptors, 102-98, to take a 2-1 series lead

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Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

BROOKLYN - Welcome home, Brooklyn! Friday night was Game 3 of the first round playoff series between the Brooklyn Nets and Toronto Raptors. The two teams entered the series tied at 1-1, but Brooklyn was looking to continue their hot streak of home basketball.

Happy to be back in Brooklyn, the Nets took a 2-1 series lead as Deron Williams Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce led the way. The Nets topped the Raptors, 102-98, showing the toughness throughout that Pierce had asked for after Game 2.

The Nets got out to a quick and, more importantly, aggressive start. After Paul Pierce said the team was "soft" in Game 2, you could see that they were going to "go hard," early and often. Kevin Garnett, Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce all got hits on Jonas Valanciunas early, sending a message that they were going to make him work hard for each rebound and post-up.

Midway through the first, Mason Plumlee entered the game for Kevin Garnett at his regular 6-minute mark, and off the first play out of the timeout, Plumlee went up to ball deny DeMar DeRozan, knocking him over -- in a clean play -- and once again sending the message of toughness.

Brooklyn lost its rhythm late in the first quarter, allowing the Raptors to build a bit of a lead, 23-19, at the end of one.

Kidd went to the bench to start the second quarter, along with Shaun Livingston, who entered the game as a gam-time decision. Andrei Kirilenko, who didn't play in the first game, got in early in the second quarter. He helped provide some much-needed activity to a somewhat listless bench unit.

Andray Blatche hurt his knee midway through the second quarter when he collided with DeMar DeRozan. He had to head to the bench to be tended to by trainer Tim Walsh.

The Nets were down 35-33 when Kidd put the starters back in at the 6-minute mark of the second quarter. They managed to build a lead. It also helped that Jonas Valanciunas picked up his third foul with five minutes to go in the second.

Pierce got the crowd amped up when he crossed over Tyler Hansbrough on his way to a wide-open dunk. With a minute to play in the second the crowd had finally gotten into the game, as the Nets led 47-41. Williams, however, picked up his third foul in the closing second of the half.

At halftime, the Nets led 49-45.

The Nets foul woes hit them early in the third when both Livingston and Garnett picked up their fourth fouls. Fortunately, Joe Johnson was there to pick up the slack, hitting back-to-back threes, giving the Nets a 9-point lead with seven minutes to play in the third. Johnson was on fire, scoring 10 points in the quarter.

Andray Blatche returned to the game at the 3-minute mark in the third, after Mason Plumlee had picked up his third foul. Paul Pierce nailed a three late in the third to keep the Nets lead at seven, followed by a baseline drive where he hit Blatche for an easy dunk.

At the end of the third quarter, the Nets led the Raptors 77-66.

Mirza Teletovic opened the fourth quarter hitting a three and really igniting the crowd. Pierce, Johnson and Williams continued to lead the charge, while the Raptors attempted to work the ball back into the paint with the Garnett- and Plumlee-less Nets.

With 6:45 left in the game, Kyle Lowry picked up his fifth foul when he reached in on Blatche. He hit both free throws to give the Nets an 86-73 lead. One play later, Valanciunas picked up his fifth foul. Both players stayed in the game.

Brooklyn continued to hit shots, responding to every Raptors run. Again, it was the trio of Johnson, Pierce and Williams leading the way for the Nets.

The Raptors pulled to within four in the final minute before Greivis Vasquez was called for a technical foul. Williams hit two free throws, but they couldn't put the Raptors away. Williams later missed three of four free throws and DeRozan hit a three-point play to pull the Raptors to within one point.

Lowry fouled out with 20.3 seconds remaining, sending Livingston to the free-throw line where he hit one of two of his free throws, giving the Nets a 2-point lead. On the missed three throw, Blatche fouled Patrick Patterson on the rebound sending him to the line. Patterson missed both free throws.

The Nets finished off the Raptors, winning 102-98.

Johnson finished with a team-high 29 points. Williams added 22 points. Pierce had 18 points and five rebounds.

Game 4 is Sunday in Brooklyn at 7:00 PM.

For more on the Raptors, see: Raptors HQ