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NO.SLEEP.TIL.PLAYOFFS! NETS RISE ABOVE THE NORTH, DEFEATS RAPTORS 114-109

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Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

BROOKLYN -- Heart. Passion. Fight. Three things the Nets have lacked all season, but in the last six games, they've found all three and it's leading to something special here late in the season. Williams.Lopez.Young.  Three players who the Nets didn't have in their starting lineup a couple of months ago.

Their latest victims: The Kyle Lowry - less Raptors, who they defeated 114-109 at the Barclays Center Friday night before a crowd that reveled in the playoff-like atmosphere. Last game vs. the Knicks, Brook Lopez hit the game winner. This time, it was Thaddeus Young who put home the sealer.

The teams were tied 109-109 with 36 seconds remaining, ball in Deron Williams' hand. Williams penetrated to the hole, missed a floater then watched Brook Lopez miss a tip-in bucket off the miss. Then, Thaddeus Young came flying in out of Minnesota and put home the eventual game winning bucket with 22 seconds remaining. DeMar DeRozan missed on the last attempt for Toronto and the Nets were on their way to their sixth straight victory and 10th in the last 12.

"I know it's a crucial moment of the game, so you have to make those types of big plays," Young said. They outscored Toronto 37-30 in the fourth quarter.

It feels like they're never going to lose. And they may not if Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young combine for 90 points every night. The new big three, for now anyway.

Deron Williams led all scorers with 31 points and 11 assists. Things changed for Deron in the third quarter. After not getting a pretty blatant foul call, Williams scored 10 straight points to keep the Nets afloat while Toronto charged on the offensive end. So, from the Brooklyn Nets nation, thank you, Ref Eli Roe.

Next: Brook Lopez. The big fella scored 14 points in the fourth quarter and finished the night with 30 points and 17 rebounds in 44 minutes. 10 of his 17 rebounds were off the offensive glass. It's his 15th double-double of the season, the fifth time in the last nine games he's had 30 points and the second time he's had 30 and 15, something he had never done in his career before this season.

Third, but certainly not least, the game's savior: Thaddeus Young. He finished with 29 points and four steals on 12-of-15 shooting! Ever since he's been around, this team has been much more loose and far more athletic than they ever were.

The Nets trailed for most of the way, thanks to a predictable 27-15 advantage in the second quarter from Toronto. However, Brooklyn never gave up. Brooklyn displayed the heart, passion and fight needed to get into the playoffs. BUT their bench will have to perform better after scoring only 11 points in this one, with Jarrett Jack not playing at all in the second half and Mason Plumlee playing only four minutes for the game.

"Since the All-Star break the bench had played better," Lionel Hollins said. "But lately they haven’t been able to score nor defend on the level that we need to be successful."

So Hollins decided to "ride" the starters, back-to-back be damned.  Hollins tried to rest his starters in the second half by taking advantage of game stoppages and Raptors timeouts.  It worked, but D-Will, Lopez, Young and Johnson averaged 38.5 minutes. Alan Anderson fell on Lopez's foot late in the game and headed to the locker room. He had landed awkwardly and had to be helped to the locker room. He didn't return and didn't take the team's late plane to Atlanta.

DeMar DeRozan led the way for Toronto with 27 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Like the playoffs, he looked like a poor mans Kobe Bryant. Behind him was Jonas Valanciunas, who scored 21 points and nine rebounds. Off the bench, perhaps the sixth man of the year -- Lou Williams -- was a force with 23 points.

"Those guys were amazing tonight, hitting shot after shot, matching us," Williams said of the Raptors. "We thought we could pull away with some of the shots we were hitting and then they came right back."

The Nets are winners of six straight and have escalated their playoff chances with this win. They own the seventh seed still by a half-game, but lead the ninth seeded Celtics by one and a half games. They'll face off against the Atlanta Hawks Saturday night.  Must have been a nice flight.

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