Raptors even series with Game 4 victory in BrooklynPublished Posted on | By TZTA News
BY RYAN WOLSTAT ,TORONTO SUN
Raptors guard Kyle Lowry is defended by Nets guard Shaun Livingston (right) during the first quarter of Game 4 of their first round playoff series in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Sunday, April 27, 2014. (Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports)
BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Up against the wall, with a season that began more than half a year ago hanging in the balance, the Raptors responded and then responded some more.In as gritty a performance as you’ll see in today’s NBA, the never quit, always punching above their weight class Raptors lived to fight another day, squaring this seven-game series with the Nets at two apiece.
The final was 87-79, but it was far closer than that. DeMar DeRozan had a scorching first half, scoring 20 of his team-leading 24 points, Kyle Lowry added 12 of his 22 in an inspiring second half and a resurgent Amir Johnson added 17.
Paul Pierce scored 22 for Brooklyn, 10 more than any of his teammates, as the Nets were held to 41.2% shooting.
While some in the underwhelming crowd at Barclays Center declined to stand for the Canadian anthem and chanted USA, USA throughout, many Raptors fans made the trip and were left hooting and hollering by the end.
But what a ride to get there.
Storming out of the gate, Toronto’s offence looked better than it had at any prior point in the series. A hobbled Lowry broke down the Brooklyn defence and DeMar DeRozan threw off the Nets by rising up and firing from everywhere on the court. The team’s stars each notched 10 in the 35-point opening frame and life looked grand for the visitors.
When Greivis Vasquez checked in, his pick-and-rolls with Amir Johnson gave the home side extreme difficulty. The return of an effective Johnson was a large development for the Raptors.
Johnson had 10 points in the paint through a quarter, three less than the entire Nets team.
Eventually, though, the Raptors had to rest Johnson and Lowry was forced out against his will, after being called for his third foul of the opening half. The tide turned in their absence.
Turnover problems reared their ugly head as the first half wound down, Toronto’s offence went south and the Nets closed on a 14-4 run to escape into the break down just seven.
The third quarter, long a problematic frame for these Raptors, turned into a four alarm blaze. It took half the quarter for Toronto to make a bucket, the Nets shot 57.1% to Toronto’s 19%, yet, the East’s scrappiest bunch, with half the roster limping noticeably, somehow escaped into the biggest quarter of the season with the score even at 67.
With Johnson and Patrick Patterson playing on sore knees, Lowry playing through an assortment of injuries and DeRozan seething at the work of the officials – horrid for both teams, if you’re keeping track of such things – the Raptors refused to quit.
Anybody that had watched Lowry for any stretch of time knew he’d come to play despite the knee issue.
Lowry was a force early and was greatly missed when foul trouble knocked him off of the floor.
“He’s one of the toughest guys I’ve been around as a guard as far as fighting through things,” head coach Dwane Casey said pre-game. “He’s got the bum knee, bum lip and a little bit of everything else, but he’s going to fight through it, he’s not complaining about it. He’ll be ready to go.”
And he was. Though limping at times, Lowry cut into the teeth of the Brooklyn defence and was aggressive, leading the team with seven shot attempts in the first quarter.
Casey let Johnson play through four fouls early in the third quarter. A dangerous proposition, but likely a necessary one.
It didn’t help, as Brooklyn came all the way back and took the lead. Brooklyn’s defence swarmed and the Raptors had no answers. Suddenly, DeRozan’s shots weren’t falling and nobody was moving toward the ball to help him out.
Brooklyn scored on its first four possessions of the third as the Raptors buckled. The visitors looked nervous and frustrated, with DeRozan even missing a technical foul, moments after shoving Nets big man Mason Plumlee.
All of the gas rushed out of the Toronto helium balloon that had soared so high in the opening quarter.
It took half of the third quarter for the Raptors to hit a field goal, but that and taking Chuck Hayes out of mothballs seemed to stabilize the visitors.
Fittingly, it was the former Sacramento King, brought over in the Rudy Gay deal, that helped right Toronto’s ship, a mirror of the overall season, making the comeback possible.
The teams exchanged blows in a nail-biting fourth and Lowry, the team’s leader all season, closed the deal, with a jumper and a pair of free throws.
This series has the makings of a classic.
Next stop, Toronto.