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Toronto Raptors vs. Brooklyn Nets: Postgame Grades and Analysis for Game 3

BROOKLYN, NY - APRIL 25: Deron Williams #8 of the Brooklyn Nets drives against the Toronto Raptors in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the NBA Playoffs on April 25, 2014 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Andy BaileyFeatured ColumnistApril 26, 2014

The Brooklyn Nets have captured a 2-1 series edge following a 102-98 Game 4 victory over the Toronto Raptors Friday at the Barclays Center.

The Nets got huge games out of each of their three best scorers, as Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and Paul Pierce scored 29, 22 and 18 points, respectively. 

The Raptors were led by DeMar DeRozan, who went for a game-high 30 points. Patrick Patterson added 17 off the bench, and Jonas Valanciunas posted a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

 

Key Player Grades: Toronto Raptors

Kyle Lowry, Point Guard

Apr 25, 2014; Brooklyn, NY, USA;  Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) defends Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) during the second quarter in game three of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppus
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Toronto's emotional leader struggled against D-Will, going 4-of-9 from the field on the way to 15 points and just four assists.

And he didn't just have a hard time getting himself and his team going offensively. On the other end, Kyle Lowry tried to play physical D on the bigger Williams, but he fouled out and was routinely beaten off the dribble.

Raptors coach Dwane Casey even opted to put Lowry on non-threat Andrei Kirilenko a couple of times in an effort to hide him defensively.

As bad as he was, Lowry might have a built-in excuse for his bad game, though he's not likely to use it. He appeared to hurt himself on a drive in the first half but played through to the end of the game.

Grade: C+

 

DeMar DeRozan, Shooting Guard/Small Forward

Apr 25, 2014; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) shoots over Brooklyn Nets guard Deron Williams (8) during the first quarter in game three of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Anthony G
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It took him quite a few shots to get to his 30 points, but you can't blame DeRozan for feeling like he had to carry the load on offense. As he wasn't getting much from his teammates, he hoisted up 22 attempts, making just eight.

You can question if he was doing too much, though. Not necessarily just with the amount of shots he took, but in the fact that the Raptors had him running the offense.

He already had enough pressure to score on one end and defend Johnson on the other. Putting the entire offense on him was a tough move to understand.

Grade: B

 

Jonas Valanciunas, Center

BROOKLYN, NY - APRIL 25: Jonas Valanciunas #17 of the Toronto Raptors rebounds against the Brooklyn Nets in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the NBA Playoffs on April 25, 2014 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. NOTE TO
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Toronto's biggest mismatch is undoubtedly at center, where Valanciunas has been dominant. That edge was neutralized Friday due to foul trouble.

He sat long stretches of the game due to five fouls but was still very effective when he was on the floor. He went for 10 rebounds and 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting.

The Raptors desperately need him on the floor if they want any shot to win this series. 

Grade: B+

 

Amir Johnson, Power Forward

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 25:  Kevin Garnett #2 of the Brooklyn Nets grabs the loose ball before Amir Johnson #15 of the Toronto Raptors in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Barclays Center on April 25, 2014
Elsa/Getty Images

As has been the case in most of this series, Amir Johnson was basically a non-factor in Game 3. He played 29 minutes and posted seven points and four rebounds. 

Considering the super-small lineup Brooklyn plays—with Pierce at power forward—the 6'9" Johnson should be feasting.

Even if he's not getting touches within the offense, Johnson should be able to get a few buckets from offensive rebounds and putbacks.

Grade: C

 

Terrence Ross, Small Forward/Shooting Guard

Apr 25, 2014; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) fouls Toronto Raptors forward Terrence Ross (31) during the first quarter in game three of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Grupp
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Terrence Ross struggled even worse than Johnson. He played 22 minutes and struggled to do anything positive with his playing time. He went 1-of-4 from the field and turned the ball over three times.

Several Raptors worked through the postseason jitters after Game 1. Ross isn't one of them.

Grade: F

 

Patrick Patterson, Power Forward

TORONTO, CANADA - April 22:  Patrick Patterson #54 of the Toronto Raptors stands on the court before Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Brooklyn Nets during the 2014 NBA Playoffs on April 22, 2014 at the Air Canada Centre in Toro
Ron Turenne/Getty Images

Patterson did what he could to make up for the lack of impact Toronto's starting power forward had. He shot 6-of-7 from the field, scoring 17 points.

What he provides that really helps Toronto is floor spacing. Like Johnson, the 6'9" Patterson didn't do a great job of using his height advantage, but he has the perimeter game to make up for that. He hit 3-of-4 from three-point range and forced his defender to guard him outside the paint.

Grade: A

 

Bench

The only other reserve who got much time off the bench was Greivis Vasquez, who went 2-of-6 from the field for seven points. He also chipped in six assists.

Landry Fields, Tyler Hansbrough and John Salmons combined to go for seven points on 3-of-9 shooting 

Grade: D-

 

Key Player Grades: Brooklyn Nets

Deron Williams, Point Guard

Apr 25, 2014; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Deron Williams (8) advances the ball during the third quarter against the Toronto Raptors in game three of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Barclays Center. Brooklyn Nets won 102-98.  Mandato
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Vintage, throwback, old-school. Whatever you want to call it, Williams played the kind of game that made him a superstar in Utah. He scored 22 points on 7-of-14 shooting and dished out eight assists.

He was attacking all game long, putting a ton of pressure on Toronto's defense. One such drive came in the final minute of the game, when he drew a critical foul on Vasquez. When it looked like the Raptors might pull off a miracle comeback, Williams knew he needed to make a play.

If he plays with this kind of energy and mentality over the remainder of the series, Lowry and the Raptors could be in real trouble.

Grade: A-

 

Joe Johnson, Shooting Guard/Small Forward

Apr 25, 2014; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Joe Johnson (7) advances the ball during the fourth quarter against the Toronto Raptors in game three of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Barclays Center. Brooklyn Nets won 102-98.  Mandatory
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Brooklyn's best scorer was giving it to the Raptors, particularly in the second half. His hot shooting in the third quarter helped the Nets build up to a 15-point lead. He finished the game with 29 points on 11-of-17 shooting.

Johnson is a matchup nightmare for Toronto. Against smaller defenders, he can dominate in the post. When the Raptors put someone bigger on him, he used his slow, controlled drives to get to his spots. Either way, his runners and floaters were on point. And when his jumper's falling too—which it was—Johnson's a top-notch scorer.

Grade: A

 

Paul Pierce, Power Forward/Small Forward

BROOKLYN, NY - APRIL 25: Paul Pierce #34 of the Brooklyn Nets celebrates against the Toronto Raptors in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the NBA Playoffs on April 25, 2014 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. NOTE TO USER
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Down the stretch, Williams and Shaun Livingston missed some critical free throws that would've sealed the game for the Nets.

When the lead dwindled all the way down to two, Pierce went to the line with a chance to make it a two-possession game with under 20 seconds left. He drilled both.

All game long, he played with steel nerves, hitting several shots when Brooklyn needed them in the worst way.

He finished the game with 18 points on 5-of-9 from the field and 7-of-7 from the free-throw line.

Grade: A

 

Shaun Livingston, Shooting Guard/Point Guard

BROOKLYN, NY - APRIL 25: Shaun Livingston #14 of the Brooklyn Nets drives against the Toronto Raptors in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the NBA Playoffs on April 25, 2014 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. NOTE TO USE
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Ever since he was inserted into the starting lineup, Livingston's been an X-factor for the Nets. That just hasn't really been the case in this series.

He did a good job in the rebound and assist departments, posting six and four, but his overall game was limited by foul trouble.

In 29 minutes, he went 1-of-3 for three points.

Grade: C

 

Kevin Garnett, Center/Power Forward

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 25:  Kevin Garnett #2 of the Brooklyn Nets celebrates with teammate Paul Pierce #34 in the second quarter against the Toronto Raptors in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Barclays C
Elsa/Getty Images

Kevin Garnett played just 16 minutes and managed to foul out in the process. He scored two points on 1-of-3 shooting to go along with four rebounds and three assists.

He's horribly outmatched in this series against Valanciunas, who's dominated every time the two are head-to-head.

Grade: D+

 

Andray Blatche, Center/Power Forward

Apr 25, 2014; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets center Andray Blatche (0) drives between Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) and forward Amir Johnson (15) during the fourth quarter in game three of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Barclays Cent
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With Garnett spending a lot of time on the bench due to fouls and age, Brooklyn needs backup big men Andray Blatche and Mason Plumlee to pull their weight.

Friday, Blatche did just that. He scored 12 points on just three shot attempts, thanks to his going 8-of-8 from the free-throw line.

Grade: B+

 

Bench

The rest of Brooklyn's bench went just 6-of-18 for 16 points.

Plumlee was limited by foul trouble, and Marcus Thornton was limited by, well, something.

With Brooklyn's age, the bench may need to have bigger games if the Nets get past the Raptors and advance later in the playoffs.

Grade: D+

 

What's Next?

Apr 25, 2014; Brooklyn, NY, USA;  Brooklyn Nets guard Deron Williams (8) drives against Toronto Raptors guard Greivis Vasquez (21) during the third quarter in game three of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Barclays Center. Brooklyn Nets won 102
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The Raptors could really use bigger games out of starters Johnson and Ross going forward. Contributions from them would go a long way toward relieving DeRozan of some pressure.

For the Nets, play down the stretch has to be better. They managed to get a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter and almost coughed it up. The veteran team is supposed to be the one that rises in those situations.

Game 4 will be Sunday in Brooklyn at 7 p.m. ET.

 

Andy Bailey covers the NBA for Bleacher Report.

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