Deron Williams and Joe Johnson each scored 24 points, Paul Pierce scored nine of his 15 in the fourth quarter and the Brooklyn Nets beat the Toronto Raptors, 94-87, at the Air Canada Centre Saturday afternoon, taking a 1-0 series lead in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Williams set the tone early on, scoring 11 in the first quarter as the Nets took an early 25-13 lead. The Raptors were able to battle back, cutting the lead to four by halftime, but poor shooting (39.4 percent) and turnovers (17) doomed Toronto.
Brooklyn's veteran experience played a prominent role in this game, with Pierce and Kevin Garnett both making big plays down the stretch. Pierce scored nine straight Nets points late in the fourth quarter, and Garnett hit a big jumper to help Brooklyn come up with the win.
Kyle Lowry led the young Raptors with 22 points.
The Nets were able to get the victory despite going just 4-of-24 from three-point range, going only one for their last 20.
There is already some extra drama in this one, too, as Toronto general manager Masai Ujiri shouted an expletive about Brooklyn to the fans before the game.
Game 2 will be Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Key Player Grades
Paul Pierce, Power Forward
What can you say about Paul Pierce?
You can lock him up in a padded room for five years, but take him out and insert him into the fourth quarter of a big game, and he won't break a sweat.
Pierce had six points off 2-of-8 shooting entering the final period and sat the first six minutes of it.
Then, The Truth took over.
Pierce scored nine straight Brooklyn points, burying a huge triple to put the Nets up six and making several of his patented jumpers.
The former Boston Celtics great closed the game with 15 points, four rebounds and four assists.
Another clutch, classic effort by Pierce, and his spectacular play down the stretch is reflected in his grade.
Kevin Garnett, Center
Too often, we look at the stat sheet to determine a player's value to the game.
Back in the day, Kevin Garnett brought the intangibles and filled up the box score. Well, he doesn't really do the latter anymore, but his impact on the game is still colossal.
Garnett didn't score a point in the first half (the first time in his playoff career that has happened), but late in the contest, the future Hall of Famer came to life.
Upon being reinserted into the game halfway through the fourth quarter after a long rest, KG immediately started making plays defensively. His rotations were crisp, his shot contests were great and his presence on the glass was fantastic.
He then made a huge, vintage Garnett jumper in the lane to put the Nets up three with a little over three minutes remaining.
KG finished with five points and eight rebounds in 20 minutes. He only went 1-of-5 from the floor, but his one make was a big one. And again, it goes beyond the stat sheet with The Big Ticket.
Deron Williams, Point Guard
Deron Williams was aggressive right off the bat in this one, scoring 11 points in the first quarter and doing it from all over the place. He got to the rim, hit mid-range shots, knocked down three-pointers and drew some fouls.
He cooled off as the game progressed, but the impact that he made early on reverberated throughout the contest, as he clearly set the tone.
Williams ended with 24 points off 8-of-20 shooting, making all six of his free throws. He only dished out three assists, but clearly, his intention in this game was to score the basketball.
Joe Johnson, Small Forward
Talk about an efficient performance.
Joe Johnson recorded 24 points on 13 shots, making eight field goals and knocking down all eight of his foul shots.
He abused the Raptors in the post, made great cuts and was also a force on the glass, hauling in eight rebounds.
Johnson handed out four assists to boot.
For a player who has been criticized in the past for his playoff failures, this was a fine way to begin the 2014 postseason.
Shaun Livingston, Shooting Guard
Shaun Livingston quietly had a solid game.
He paced the Nets early on in the fourth quarter when Williams was on the bench, playing disruptive defense and making some shots over the shorter Toronto guards.
Livingston registered 10 points off 4-of-6 shooting and chipped in three rebounds and three assists in 29 minutes.
His length was clearly a factor.
Andray Blatche, Sixth Man
Andray Blatche rarely makes things look pretty, but he definitely made some big plays in this contest.
The big man tallied six rebounds in 16 minutes, four of those coming on the offensive glass. He also recorded five points.
However, this wasn't one of Blatche's best performances.
The Raptors were able to get to the rim with Blatche defending the paint, and the result was a paltry minus-16 plus/minus stat for the reserve.
Fortunately, the Nets didn't need much from Blatche to win Game 1, but he needs to step up for the rest of this series and the playoffs in general.
Alan Anderson made a few big shots in the first half, scoring all six of his points over the first 24 minutes. However, he was invisible after halftime, and he missed his final four field-goal attempts and misfired on all three of his long-range tries.
Mason Plumlee played 12 minutes, recording two points and three rebounds. He also tallied five fouls, which is to be expected of a rookie. He needs to learn to defend more with his body rather than his hands.
Mirza Teletovic got some burn, as well. He only went 1-of-6, but his one field goal was a big one, a putback off an offensive rebound in the fourth quarter.
Marcus Thornton missed all four of his shot attempts.
Strangely enough, Andrei Kirilenko didn't play a single minute.
Brooklyn's bench is normally very reliable, but on Saturday afternoon, it put an awful lot of pressure on the starters to essentially get the job done themselves.
Kyle Lowry, Point Guard
Kyle Lowry had a great first half, scoring 15 points and doing a great job of knocking down three-pointers off screens.
However, in the second half, his lack of playoff experience showed.
Lowry scored seven points over the final 24 minutes, going only 3-of-10 from the floor and simply taking some wild shots.
The stocky floor general also committed five turnovers in the loss and had a lot of trouble staying with Williams early on in the contest.
Lowry finished with 22 points off 7-of-18 shooting. He also handed out eight dimes.
Solid performance, but against the Nets, he needs to be better in terms of his shot selection and taking care of the rock.
DeMar DeRozan, Shooting Guard
To say DeMar DeRozan was awful doesn't even begin to describe it.
Maybe it was nerves, maybe it was Brooklyn's defense, maybe it was a combination of things, but DeRozan couldn't buy a bucket.
The All-Star went only 3-of-13 from the floor, misfiring on all four of his three-point attempts. He did get to the free-throw line, draining all eight of his foul shots, but the misses from the field played a significant part in doing the Raptors in.
DeRozan scored 14 points overall.
Terrence Ross, Small Forward
Terrence Ross was absolutely nonexistent in the loss.
He got into some foul trouble early and was never able to get into a rhythm. All four of his field-goal attempts were three-pointers, and he only hit one.
He also failed to get to the charity stripe.
So, that's three points and four fouls for Ross in 16 minutes—not a great playoff debut.
Amir Johnson, Power Forward
Much like Ross, Amir Johnson was M.I.A. in Game 1.
By contrast, though, it wasn't because of foul trouble. It was just because he didn't play well.
Johnson tallied two points and three rebounds in 21 minutes, registering a minus-12 plus/minus. His defensive impact was also limited, failing to record a block. He didn't do a lot of challenging at the cup, either.
Johnson has to be better if Toronto wants to have any chance of winning this series.
Jonas Valanciunas, Center
Jonas Valanciunas came out of the gate fast, posting eight points and eight rebounds in the first quarter alone.
He was a machine on the glass, grabbing 18 boards for the game, five of them coming on the offensive end. However, Valanciunas missed numerous shots at the rim and also had some difficulty handling the basketball, committing six turnovers. Those miscues played a rather significant role in his minus-17 plus/minus.
The big Lithuanian finished with 17 points off 7-of-13 shooting to go along with his rebound total.
The turnovers definitely hurt, though.
Greivis Vasquez, Sixth Man
Greivis Vasquez was absolutely awesome in this game and was the main reason why the Raptors remained within striking distance down the stretch.
In 29 minutes, Vasquez scored 18 points, going 5-of-11 from the floor, knocking down three of his five three-point tries and connecting on all five of his free-throw attempts.
To add on, the Maryland product racked up eight assists and four rebounds.
He made huge shots throughout the second half, including a three-pointer to briefly put Toronto up 77-76 late.
Props to Greivis for an awesome performance.
If only his teammates could have followed suit.
Patrick Patterson made some big contributions in this contest, chipping in with nine points and five rebounds in 26 minutes. He made a big three-pointer to tie the game early on in the fourth period and also had a nice transition dunk in the third.
Other than Patterson, though, Toronto's bench did next to nothing.
Tyler Hansbrough was the only other reserve to score, recording a mere two points. John Salmons went scoreless in 13 minutes, and Chuck Hayes and Nando de Colo did nothing.
Patterson saves the pine from a much worse grade.