NETS 94/RAPTORS 87
This is the reason why Billy King made that monster trade with the Boston Celtics last summer. He made that deal, because he knew that as soon as serious Spring Basketball started, veterans Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett would be at the ready.
Down the stretch Saturday, it was the two ex-Celtics that powered the Brooklyn Nets to a 94-87 victory in Toronto to take a 1-0 lead in the best of seven series.
While the Nets might be ranked as a number six seed, this match-up feels more like a battle between a four and five seed. These two teams are that close. However it was obvious from the get go Saturday afternoon, that the Nets playoff experience played a large roll in their victory, while Toronto's playoff inexperience may have been their ultimate undoing.
The Nets had flirted with disaster from time to time throughout the contest. They were terrible from behind the arch, and watch the Raptors were seemingly nailing every three pointer they attempted. Kyle Lowry nailed a buzzer beater at the end of the third quarter to cut the Nets lead to five. Then, Patrick Peterson nailed a corner three, and slammed home a pass by Lowry to tie it up with 9:49 to play.
Did the Nets panic? No sir.
The Nets relied on the guys who both carried them to this point, and then the older guys who have made the playoffs their annual playground in years past to get them past a spunky Raptor team.
After Mirza Teletovic and Shaun Livingston built a Nets lead of 75-73, Toronto answered with another three-pointer, this one from Gerivis Vasquez, who drilled a 25-foot jumper. The Raptors led 76-75.
Now it was up to the old guys to get the job done, and did they ever. Garnett who had been shutout all afternoon, hit a big two point bucket to give Brooklyn a three-point lead, 79-76, before Paul Pierce went absolutely insane on Toronto.
The former Finals MVP accounted for the next four Nets scores, including a monster three pointer to increase the Nets lead to six with 2:58 to go. After another Toronto turnover, he drilled a 19-foot jump shot to make it 86-78, and later, dropped down two more to answer another Vasquez basket to keep Brooklyn in front, 88-81.
Perhaps it was just meant to be Pierce's day. He opened the day with a loud three pointer for Brooklyn's first points of the day, and he kept it going from that point forward. It was his way of saying "hello, I am here for the playoffs." While Pierce's numbers don't blow you away, 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting, it was a heck of performance in the clutch.
In a way it overshadows the great job by Deron Williams who put up 20 points, 18 of which came in the first half, and Joe Johnson, who netted 24 points.
But, at the end of the day it doesn't matter. The Nets played like the cohesive, clutch unit everyone expected them to be all season.
Now Brooklyn has control of this series, and against a young Toronto team, one has to like the Nets chances.