NBA playoffs: Nets edge Raptors to take control of series
By Brian Mahoney
The Associated PressFirst published Apr 25 2014 10:43PM
New York • Paul Pierce climbed high for the dunk, Kevin Garnett went to the floor for a loose ball, and Brooklyn suddenly looked and sounded like Boston.
The Nets brought the two champions here so it would be like this, not the way it was for their last home playoff game.
"This is a totally different team, totally different feeling," guard Deron Williams said. "I think we’re poised to make a run."
Joe Johnson scored 29 points, Pierce and Garnett brought a charge to their first playoff game in Brooklyn, and the Nets held off the Toronto Raptors 102-98 on Friday night for a 2-1 lead in the first-round series.
Johnson made the clinching free throws with 3.1 seconds left after the Nets blew almost all of a 15-point, fourth-quarter lead. Williams added 22 points and eight assists for the sixth-seeded Nets, who host Game 4 on Sunday night.
Pierce had 18 points, and he and Garnett provided the game’s signature plays late in the second quarter, a reminder that the Nets brought the veterans here as much for their bravado as their basketball.
But all that experience almost didn’t matter after the Nets made a series of mistakes down the stretch.
DeMar DeRozan scored 30 points for the Raptors, who have lost 13 straight road playoff games. Patrick Patterson added 17 points but missed two free throws with a chance to tie for Toronto, whose last postseason victory was May 6, 2001, in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at Philadelphia.
"I missed. First big free throws I’ve ever missed in my life like that," Patterson said. "Unfortunately, it (stinks) but all I can do is look forward to the next opportunity."
Kyle Lowry fouled out with 15 points, forcing the Raptors to try to complete the comeback without their point guard. And they almost did.
"This team tried to throw haymakers at us and go at us, and we did a good job of battling back and staying in the game," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said.
Toronto charged back and was in position to tie when Patterson went to the line with 19 seconds left. But he missed both and Pierce knocked down two to make it 100-96, and Johnson then made two with 3.1 seconds to go after Amir Johnson’s follow shot as Brooklyn held on.
"It feels good to win, but at the same time you know you can be a lot better," Pierce said.