Raptors hold on to take Game 2 over Nets
The novelty and physicality of the post-season may have caught DeMar DeRozan off-guard in Game 1, but there was not going to be a repeat of that.
He spent the better part of the two days in between games telling any and all who asked that that would be the case.
Then he went out and proved it with a game-high 30 points in a 100-95 Raptors win.
DeRozan had already matched his Game 1 performance through three quarters and then pumped in 17 in the final frame to help put the game away and get the Raptors back on even terms in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final with the Brooklyn Nets.
With just more than seven minutes left, DeRozan picked up his fifth foul and, to no avail, pleaded with Casey and the Raptors coaching staff to let him play with the five.
When he got back in the game with just under four minutes remaining and the Raptors holding a one-point lead, he went right back to work and hit back-to-back jumpers with defenders in his face to get the Raptors’ lead up to four.
The Raps never trailed again despite another Paul Pierce opportunity to play the hero.
He got the job done in Game 1 with a huge final finish, scoring six consecutive points during crunch time and delivering the win for the Nets.
He teased the visiting crowd, one that has pretty much decided Pierce is the Brooklyn player they love to hate the most, with a bucket and drew the foul with just more than a minute left. Of course, he finished the play from the charity stripe to cut the Raptors’ lead to two.
But on the next possession, Pierce had an open corner three and, this time, the Truth didn’t come through as the ball went off the iron and was corralled by the Raptors.
DeRozan was fouled and went to the line, converting both to get the lead back to four.
Joe Johnson, who continues to be a pain for the Raptors and a very tough cover, bumped his night’s offence to 18 with a baseline drive.
The Raptors called a timeout and, on a smart inbounds play, Greivis Vasquez found Amir Johnson on a smaller defender and put the ball in the power forward’s hands, and he finished with a flush.
The Nets never got closer than three the rest of the way.
Jonas Valanciunas wasted little time confirming to the Nets and everyone else paying attention that his Game 1 showing was no fluke.
Valanciunas had eight points and four boards by the end of the quarter. He had a quiet five minutes in the second quarter and then had a solid third on the boards, moving into double-double territory with another three points to get to 11, and five more rebounds, including three on the offensive glass.
The Nets did jump out to a quick 8-1 lead that had the sold-out Air Canada Centre crowd at least a little worried.
Casey, though, with some magic words during the timeout to calm his players down, proved to be just the right tonic.
They came out and immediately went on an 11-2 run of their own to take the lead.
The Raptors were in control most of the rest of the half, with the lead growing to as large as 11, but they never really pulled away.
Another 11 turnovers in the half, on the heels of 19 in the first game, were part of it, but so was the quiet offensive half from point guard Kyle Lowry.
Despite playing almost 19 of the first 24 minutes, the Nets stifled Lowry, holding him to just two points, both from the free-throw line while he went 0-for 5 from the field.
But Lowry got things going in the second half and wound up with a solid 14-point, nine-rebound, and six-assist game.
The crowd, as it was in Game 1, was all the home side could ask for.
They were loud. They were belligerent. And they were on the officials from the get-go.
Whether that had an impact on the crew — a more veteran trio in Monty McCutchen, David Jones and Gary Zielinski — than the NBA sent north in Game 1, only the officials themselves know.
But instead of Terrence Ross and DeRozan earning some early minutes on the bench with foul trouble, it was the Nets and head coach Jason Kidd who spent the bulk of the game managing minutes and fouls with both Pierce and Kevin Garnett picking up a couple of early ones each.
The teams will now go through another two interminable days off before hitting the court again at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn on Friday.
Who will win Game 3 in Brooklyn?