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Nets send Raptors to extinction

Paul Pierce's late block allowed the Nets to move on to the second round.
Paul Pierce's late block allowed the Nets to move on to the second round.
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The last five minutes were never pretty, but the Nets held on in the final possession of a wild 104-103 Game 7 win over the Toronto Raptors.

The Nets led by 10 points midway through the fourth quarter, but the Raptors battled back like they did the entire series. After a failed inbounds pass eluded Paul Pierce, the grizzled veteran blocked Kyle Lowry’s layup attempt at the buzzer.

The Nets survived.

"I saw him go up, I went up with him, got my hand on the ball,” Pierce said. “Game over."

Joe Johnson carried the Nets’ offense, going mostly isolation in the second half and finishing with 26 points. Marcus Thornton gave Jason Kidd a much-needed boost off the bench. Billy King acquired Thornton from the Sacramento Kings prior to the trade deadline, and the streaky scorer poured in 17 points. He converted four of his six three-point attempts.

The Nets outlasted the Raptors, who pushed them to the brink in 11 contests. The Nets won 6 of the 11 meetings, counting regular season, and the teams scored 1,070 points apiece.

The Nets also outlasted a raucous crowd, which truly provided the Raptors with a home-court advantage. The experience won out in the end.

“This is one of the best crowds in basketball,” said Pierce, who also added that the fans created an atmosphere as noisy “as I’ve been in.”

With the win, the Nets earned the right to face the two-time defending champion Miami Heat. The Heat swept the upstart Charlotte Bobcats in the first round and finished the regular season as the second seed.

"I rank LeBron as one of the greatest players to ever play the game,” Pierce said. “A tremendous athlete, four-time MVP, two-time champion."

Miami will host Game 1 Tuesday night in South Beach. The Nets swept the regular season series, 4-0.

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