To really give themselves a legitimate shot at booking passage to the second round of the postseason, the Brooklyn Nets absolutely needed to walk into the Air Canada Centre in Toronto and walk out with a victory. The Nets failed to do so, and now have only the slightest probability of winning the next two games, but that they even made the final score as close as it was was a remarkable feat for a team that was well on its way to getting blown out of the gym. A 115-113 defeat is not what the Nets wanted, but only losing by two points might was probably one of the most favorable outcomes the team could experience.
For the first quarter and a half, the game was a close, competitive affair, which was to be expected considering how evenly matched these two teams have been all series. Over the first four games, the average margin of the winning team was just six points so when the scored was tied at 40-40 with 5:05 remaining in the second quarter, all seemed right with the basketball universe, which has decreed that this series will not involve much separation between the scoring efficiency of the two squads.
Then the Raptors began steamrolling the Nets, and the narrative that these two teams were destined to always play close games in this series flew out of the window and was well on its way to achieving escape velocity and leaving the Earth's gravitational pull. Over the next quarter and a half, the Raptors built a seemingly insurmountable lead, reaching the heights of a 26-point edge over their opponent before they came back down to Earth a little bit and settled for a 22-point lead at the end of the third quarter.
Facing a 22-point deficit with just 12 minutes to go, one would have found no fault with the Nets if they had decided to write off Game 5 as an inevitable loss and removed their starters from the contest in order to conserve their energy for Game 6. Yet, the Nets refused to accept what appeared to be so glaringly obvious - that they had no chance of winning - and never removed their best players from the contest, electing instead to try to make an improbable comeback against the Raptors, who had been unstoppable for a lengthy period.
And incredibly enough, they almost pulled off the comeback, scorching the nets in the fourth quarter in what was a spectacular exhibition of hot shooting and incredible offensive efficiency. The Nets attempted 21 shots from the field and made 13 of them, including five from long-distance; for good measure, they also added 13 points from the free throw line and ended up scoring an astounding 44 points in the final quarter.
Even so, despite that torrid shooting from the field and the charity stripe, the Nets simply could not completely overcome the Raptors, unable to take a lead at any point in the fourth quarter even when the points were coming at their hottest and heaviest. The best the Nets could do was to tie the game on two separate occasions, at 101-101 and 106-106, but the Raptors were able to fight off the Nets' valiant attempts to take the lead both times, thanks to some timely shooting from Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry.
The ability of the Raptors to shake off their late-game offensive doldrums long enough to fend off the Nets' comeback attempt proved to be the difference and kept the Nets from putting together an even more impressive result by actually winning the game. The Raptors might have blown a 26-point lead, but they are the ones holding a 3-2 series edge and they are the ones with a 92.9 percent chance of winning the series.
Exciting game drama aside, the Nets are really in the same position than if they had never made that comeback at all. Odds are still stacked against them, and defeating the Raptors two straight times is now a more improbable proposition than erasing a 26-point deficit.