Be careful what you wish for. Before the playoff match-ups were decided, Toronto Raptors small forward Terrence Ross went on record saying that he wanted to see the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the playoffs, thinking that the Nets would present a favorable match-up for his squad. In Game 1 on Saturday afternoon, the Brooklyn Nets were anything but a favorable match-up for the Raptors as the Nets went to Toronto and walked off the court with a 94-87 victory, spearheaded by the play of Joe Johnson and Deron Williams, and a 1-0 edge in the best of seven series.
Although Joe Johnson has an inflated reputation around the league and is pretty much a below-average all-around player, when he shoots well as he did in Game 1, the Nets see an uptick in their win probability; check out Johnson's drastic splits in wins and losses to see just how important his contributions can be in deciding whether or not the Nets win.
Johnson attempted 13 shots from the field, converting on eight of them and also bullied his way to the free throw line where he made all eight of his free throw attempts. It was a banner performance for the 32-year-old, one which the Nets desperately needed as a competent offensive efficiency proved to be a struggle for the team for the majority of the contest; for his exploits, Johnson was credited for producing 136 points per 100 possessions.
Johnson's 24 points against the Raptors was matched by teammate Deron Williams, albeit in a much less efficient manner as Williams needed 20 field goal attempts and six free throw attempts to pour in his 24 points. Still, Williams' personal production of 108 points per 100 possessions exceeded the team's mark of 104.9 points per 100 possessions, demonstrating that he was one of the better offensive players on the court for the Nets.
However, even though Johnson and Williams did most of the heavy lifting for the Nets on offense, when it came time for them to wrest control and momentum of the game back from the Raptors, they put in a true team effort. After the Nets had led from the middle of the first quarter onwards, the Raptors finally tied the game at 67-67 apiece after a Patrick Patterson make, putting the onus on the Nets to come up with an answer to fend off their opponent's charge.
Instead of faltering and crumbling after giving up a lead after holding it for so long, the Nets rallied, displaying a level of lights-out shooting that had been largely absent up to that point. From the time Patterson tied the score to the end of the game, the Nets shot 8 of 13 from the field, including one three-pointer, and also made all eight of their free throws. Most impressively, the Nets received scoring contributions from six different players during that stretch of play.
As for the Raptors offense, there was little positive one could say about it as the Nets defense kept the Raptors from establishing any sort of rhythm and held every Raptors player not named Patrick Patterson or Greivis Vasquez in check. For the contest, the Raptors posted a pitiful offensive rating of 97.1 points per 100 possessions with most of the damage to their offensive efficiency being done in by their 17 turnovers. Even though the Raptors shot better than the Nets from the field, they could not overcome their turnover woes.
Now that Game 1 is in the books and the Nets have earned an all-important road victory, Ross might want to rethink just how favorable a match-up the Nets are, especially since he was largely invisible in the game, scoring just three points in 16 minutes. If Game 1 is any indication of how the rest of the series will play out, the Raptors will have their hands full defeating the Nets and moving on to Round 2 of the Eastern Conference playoffs.