Throughout the entire series between the Brooklyn Nets and Toronto Raptors, it's been an all-out battle between the playoff-tested veterans and the young guns.
For the second straight game, the young guns came out on top as the Raptors topped the Nets 115-113 on Wednesday night to take a 3-2 lead in the series.
Kyle Lowry did it all for the Raptors, pacing the team with 36 points and six assists in what has been a coming-out series for the young point guard. DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas contributed another combined 39 points for Toronto in the win.
Before the game got underway, Raptors coach Dwane Casey spoke with reporters about the confidence that his team is gaining through simply playing in the postseason this year:
We’re a young team, nobody expected us to be here. Every experience is a new experience for us. Guys are growing in every situation.
Going through the playoffs is nothing but a plus for our franchise. As I said, you don’t want it to be a one-time (appearance) in the playoffs and never be seen again for six more years. You want it to be a growing experience. With our core guys being so young, that should be their goal going forward.
As for the Nets, Joe Johnson went off yet again for 30 points in the losing effort. Meanwhile, the other three stars on the team in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Deron Williams combined for just 27 points as the trio was limited throughout the game.
Mike Wise of The Washington Post commented on the three players who all appeared flustered in the pivotal matchup:
From the start of the game, the Raptors kept an offensive pace that was clearly unmatched by the Nets. After only leading 28-25 after the first quarter, the second quarter was when Toronto began to run away with the game, as he Nets were flattened by the offensive onslaught by the Raptors.
Toronto navigated its way to a 34-point second quarter, while limiting Brooklyn to just 19 points in the same frame. The Raptors took a 62-44 lead into the locker rooms, and Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun revealed that the team also put up franchise-record numbers in the first half of play:
Much of that success was thanks to the offensive explosion from Lowry. Not only was he effective, he was also efficient throughout the first half, shooting 70 percent from the field.
ESPN Stats & Info provides a shot chart for the young guard:
As the third quarter got underway, it was much of the same for the Nets as the Raptors continued to pull away. Lowry continued to blow the roof off the building along with DeRozan, as the two combined to carry the team yet again through the third, outscoring the Nets 29-25.
That run sparked comments from Rod Boone of Newsday, as the Nets were getting laughed out of the gym early in the second half:
The Nets' official Twitter account also called out Brooklyn fans for their enthusiasm during previous games:
Needless to say, it appeared the Nets' grave was already dug. However, they weren't ready to lie in it.
Brooklyn surged back in the fourth quarter thanks to a huge run, which featured Pierce and Williams finally getting involved in the scoring.
Josh Lewenberg of TSN Radio 1050 in Toronto detailed the run by the Nets that got the team back in the game late in the fourth quarter:
Unfortunately, outscoring Toronto 44-24 in the fourth quarter wouldn't be enough, as the Raptors grabbed hold of the series lead for the first time.
Paul Jones of NBA-TV Canada noted that the 3-2 lead is also a huge mark for the franchise and means good things for Toronto in the series overall:
Following a game that the Raptors nearly choked up against an experienced team, the Nets do come away with an inkling of confidence heading back to Brooklyn.
The two teams will now take one day off while traveling before Game 6 on Friday night at 7 p.m. ET. With Brooklyn having its back against the wall and just one game to keep the season going, it's do-or-die time for the entire franchise.
After Brooklyn fans were called out by their own team, the pressure is on to help carry their team in what will be the most important game of the year for the Nets.
The Miami Heat have already clinched a berth to the next round, so whichever team advances to the second round from this series will have with far less time off than the favorites in the East.
Will it take a Game 7 to decide this thrilling series? That will all be determined on Friday night.
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