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Brooklyn Nets pull off thrilling Game 7 victory, advance to second round

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Game 7 capped off both an improbable and probable end to the playoff series clash between the Brooklyn Nets and the Toronto Raptors. As far as the improbable goes, the Nets' 104-103 victory on Sunday represented a drastic series win probability turnaround for the club. After holding an anorexic chance of winning the series after they dropped Game 5, the Nets then proceeded to rip off two straight victories and book their passage to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, capped off by their victory on the road in Game 7.

Although the Nets pulling out the series win was an improbable affair, the way in which the team won, or was forced to win, played right into the narrative the series has created of two evenly matched teams who rode a few breaks on their way to victory. Outside of a Game 6 final score anomaly where the Nets won by double digits, no final winning margin had exceeded eight points. While the two teams might have been better than each other by double digits within a particular contest, by the time the final horn sounded, it was a virtual certainty that the winning team would have managed to pull off the victory by less than double digits.

Therefore, when the Nets held a double-digit lead on a few separate occasions in the third and fourth quarters, it was almost a foregone conclusion that the Raptors would rally from the deficit and make the game into a closely contested affair, which is exactly what happened. After not really being able to close the gap for most of the fourth quarter, the Raptors finally broke through the Nets' defenses and closed the deficit to five points after two Kyle Lowry free throws and a Lowry made field goal; it was the closest the Raptors had been to the Nets since the second quarter.

From there, the Raptors continued to exert pressure on the Nets' lead through the play of Lowry and his teammate, Patrick Patterson, who combined to score the next eight points for the Raptors; only a Terrence Ross lay-up with eight seconds that cut the Nets' lead to one point broke up the two-man scoring run that Lowry and Patterson had orchestrated.

Still, despite the late-game heroics of the Raptors, the Nets were still able to fend off every one of their opponent's challenges to their winning advantage, never once relinquishing the lead even when it seemed as if the Raptors had all the momentum in the contest. And no fending off was more important than Paul Pierce's block to end the game when the Raptors had the contest's final possession and were looking for a chance to steal the game and the series from the Nets. Lowry might have spearheaded the Raptors' late-game charge, but he could not elevate his shot over Pierce's outstretched arms in order to cap off the rally with an actual victory.

Outlasting each other was what the entire series between the Nets and the Raptors was about, and it was the Nets who were able to make just enough winning plays to ensure that their season would not end with just a first-round playoff appearance. Now they will be headed to Miami to play the Heat, a team they beat in all four of their regular-season meetings so it is not out of the realm of possibility that they could also succeed in outlasting the Heat and continue to advance through the postseason.

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