The Brooklyn Nets entered the NBA playoffs as the lower seed in their first round series with the Toronto Raptors. But in these NBA playoffs, being a better seed has been a kiss of death for the Raptors and every other Eastern Conference team, except for the Miami Heat. Like the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls before them, the Raptors fell behind by 2-1 to a lower seed, as the Nets held on for a 102-98 win in Game 3 on April 25.
The Nets already started the series by winning Game 1, but the Raptors drew even in Game 2. Game 3 was back in Brooklyn, which was bad news for a Toronto team that has only won three road games in its postseason history. Things didn't bode well for a fourth win, once the Nets got going after a slow first quarter start.
By the fourth quarter, Brooklyn seemed to be on cruise control with a double-digit lead. However, Toronto fought back in cutting a 15-point lead to two. But when the Raptors had a chance to tie it up at the free throw line, Patrick Patterson missed two attempts and the Nets could breathe easier.
Brooklyn came close to wasting Joe Johnson's 29 points, as well as Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett's playoff debuts in their new home. Yet Toronto suffered its 13'th straight road loss in the NBA playoffs anyway, with its season set to end if it extends to 15. This is ironic, considering how so many teams have exceled on the road in this postseason.
The Heat are now the only Eastern Conference team to protect home court advantage in the NBA playoffs so far. They beat the Charlotte Bobcats twice in Miami as expected, and can breeze to the next round while every other favorite in their conference struggles not to collapse. In fact, if the first round ended today, the Heat would only have to contend with the sixth seeded Nets, fifth seeded Washington Wizards and eighth seeded Atlanta Hawks to reach the NBA finals.
This seems to be the dream Eastern Conference bracket for the Heat, although the Nets -- the Heat's next potential opponent -- still want to make it a nightmare. But they have to keep the Raptors down first, which they can do by putting them in a 3-1 hole in Game 4 on April 27.