In Game 1 of their series, the Brooklyn Nets surprised the Toronto Raptors by going into Toronto's home stadium and walking out with a 94-87 victory to capture that ever-valuable road victory for a team that does not hold homecourt advantage during a series. Games 2 and 3 were also close affairs that involved the home team winning each contest, but with the Nets having captured Game 1 in Toronto, all the team needed to do for the rest of the series was to win their games at home. Do that and they would advance.
Unfortunately for the Nets, after Sunday's 87-79 defeat, that plan is out of the window, and now the Nets will have to win at least one more road game if they want to see the second round of the postseason. The loss came after what seemed like an easy victory for the Raptors turned into a hard-fought affair where the Raptors were able to make just enough plays to fend off the Nets.
At one point in the second quarter, the Raptors had amassed a 17-point lead over the Nets and had thus far, coasted through the contest, seemingly scoring at will on most of their offensive possessions while the Nets were finding it far more difficult to put the ball in the basket. Yet, as any experienced driver knows, there will come a point when coasting is no longer possible and you will eventually be met with resistance in the form of traffic.
For the Raptors, the traffic that ended their coasting took the form of someone putting a metaphorical lip on the basket that prevented them from doing much of any scoring beginning with the middle of the second quarter immediately after DeMar DeRozan's driving lay-up gave the Raptors their biggest lead of the game. Following DeRozan's made shot, the Raptors went on a sabbatical from efficient offensive play and only scored six points over 12:14 of action.
During the Raptors' drought, the Nets had their lid removed from their own basket and were able to score enough to not only erase their double-digit deficit, but held a five-point lead at the time when the Raptors finally got their offense back on track.
The five-point lead proved to be not at all insurmountable and by the end of the third quarter, the game was tied at 67-67 apiece as neither team was able to gain much separation from the other. In fact, at no point starting with 11:03 to go in the third quarter until the final couple of minutes did either team hold a lead larger than five points. Both teams traded missed shots, made shots, turnovers, and fouls with each other to keep the game close and competitive even if it was not entirely aesthetically pleasing.
Unfortunately for the Nets, they stopped scoring at a crucial juncture of the game, scoring their last point with 4:58 remaining in the contest and Kevin Garnett's second made free throw having given them a slim 79-78 edge. The Raptors, although they did not run away with the game in latter stages, did manage to keep scoring, albeit in drips and drops and bumbled their way to an additional nine points to cement the victory.
The Nets will now have two days to solve their offensive woes (92.9 points per 100 possessions on Sunday) and figure out a way to steal another victory on the road. Their playoff lives depend on the team being able to complete both tasks.