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Raptors pull even as series shifts to Brooklyn

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The Toronto Raptors proved that the moment was not too big for them. Paul Pierce also proved he was human.

After squandering an 11-point first-half lead, the Raptors overcame a fourth-quarter Nets’ advantage and held on for a 100-95 win. The series is tied 1-1 heading to the Barclays Center on Friday night.

The Raptors pounded the Nets on the glass and scored 36 points in the fourth quarter.

“There was no way we were going to lose that game,” Raptors forward Amir Johnson said. “It was a must-win for us.”

After the two teams split the season series at two games apiece, they are now even through two in the playoffs. The series has the makings of a long one.

Pierce had every opportunity to give the Nets a 2-0 advantage, though. He missed two three-pointers in the final minute that have historically gone down for the future Hall of Famer.

“We had them on the ropes. Definitely,” Pierce said.

Although he finished the game at 2-for-11 from the field, Pierce did not receive a ton of help.

Joe Johnson carried the Nets’ offense by taking over in the third quarter with 18 points. Pierce only managed seven and Deron Williams shot 5-for-15. The Nets shot 44.2 percent from the field, but the real damage came on the boards.

The Raptors outrebounded the Nets, 52-30, and and grabbed 19 offensive rebounds. If the Raptors were looking for a weakness, they found one. Brooklyn head coach Jason Kidd has positioned his team to succeed even with their rebounding deficiencies.

The Nets routinely lost the boards battle during the season, and they forced 20 Raptors turnovers. In many ways, the rebound differential and turnover differential cancel out for the two teams.

DeMar DeRozan scored a game-high 30 points after he had struggled in Game 1. Six Raptors scored in double-figures, with big man Jonas Valanciunas posting a 15-point, 14-rebound double-double.

“We knew he was going to bounce back from the first game,” Williams said. “He took over the game, hit some crucial shots, some tough shots. We’ve got to do a better job of stopping him, especially late.”

The Nets did get the split that they needed in Toronto, though. They ascertained home-court advantage with a win in Game 1, and no team has been tougher to beat at home than the Nets since the turn of the calendar.

The Nets posted a 28-13 home record and amassed a 15-game home winning streak in the second half of the season.

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