Joe Johnson scored 26 points, Kevin Garnett posted a double-double, and the Brooklyn Nets topped the Toronto Raptors 104-103 on Sunday afternoon, winning their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series in seven games and earning a date with the Miami Heat in the conference semifinals.
The Nets led by as many as 12 in the fourth quarter, only to see the Raptors battle back and have a chance to win it with just less than seven seconds remaining. However, Paul Pierce blocked a Kyle Lowry floater at the buzzer to seal the win for Brooklyn.
Lowry led Toronto with 28 points, and Amir Johnson registered 20 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out early in the fourth quarter.
The Nets shot 45.7 percent from the floor, scoring 61 points in the first half. They struggled to put the ball in the basket over the final 24 minutes, but they got some key stops late to keep the Raptors at bay.
Toronto hit on 47.9 percent of its shots but went only 4-of-13 from behind the three-point line. Brooklyn was able to bury eight threes, which ended up being the difference in the game.
Key Player Grades: Brooklyn Nets
Paul Pierce, Power Forward
Paul Pierce didn't put forth one of his vintage Game 7 performances in this one, scoring 10 points off 4-of-10 shooting. He also banged knees with Amir Johnson in the fourth quarter and had to go to the bench for a few minutes.
It was odd not seeing Pierce get the ball down the stretch, but the Nets were content with running their late-game offense through Joe Johnson. But you knew that eventually Pierce was going to make a big play, and he did.
With Kyle Lowry putting up a floater at the buzzer, Pierce blocked the shot with his left hand, ending the series. For that, his grade gets a bit of a bump.
Pierce lives for these moments.
Kevin Garnett, Center
Kevin Garnett's big-game experience paid dividends in this one.
With the Nets down in the second quarter, he checked back in and completely changed the complexion of the game, scoring eight points and helping Brooklyn spread the floor. His defensive presence was also terrific.
He finished with a double-double, recording 12 points and 11 rebounds (five offensive) in 25 minutes. He shot 5-of-8 from the floor, making mid-range jumpers and scoring some points in the paint.
Let's also not forget that he played outstanding help defense on Lowry on that final play, getting a hand on the ball to disrupt Lowry's drive.
Finally, Garnett was a plus-seven.
Deron Williams, Point Guard
Deron Williams is not the same player he once was, and that was evident in Game 7.
He scored 13 points and shot only 3-of-8 from the floor, failing to get separation from Lowry offensively. He just does not have that quick first step he once possessed.
To make matters worse, he missed three free throws—one whiff in the fourth quarter gave the Raptors life.
He added four assists.
Williams needs to be better against the Miami Heat—much better.
Joe Johnson, Shooting Guard
Joe Johnson was sensational late in the game, scoring 13 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter. He touched the ball on most of the Nets' possessions in the second half, running down the shot clock and drawing double-teams.
If he couldn't beat the double, he swung the ball around to the open shooter, giving Brooklyn great looks late in the clock.
He shot 11-of-25 from the floor. He made only one three, but he was dominant inside, taking advantage of smaller Raptors defenders to get buckets in the paint.
Johnson added four rebounds and four assists to his stat line.
Alan Anderson, Small Forward
Alan Anderson got another start for this one, but his offensive impact was limited. The wing scored five points on 2-of-5 shooting, making one triple.
However, he does his best work on the defensive end, and he demonstrated that in Game 7. He played outstanding defense on DeMar DeRozan, forcing him into tough looks for most of the time he was covering him.
That being said, Anderson was a minus-13.
Andray Blatche, Sixth Man
Andray Blatche was key in the third quarter, scoring six points and hauling in some big offensive rebounds to help the Nets maintain their lead with Garnett on the bench.
He scored nine points in total and grabbed seven boards, with five of them on the offensive end.
Blatche also drew a huge charge in the fourth quarter. The former Washington Wizard shot 4-of-7 from the floor in 18 minutes.
Marcus Thornton gave the Nets a huge lift in the first half, registering 14 points and six rebounds. He made three-pointers (three), got to the free-throw line (5-of-6) and made plays in transition, all in just 13 first-half minutes.
He then buried a huge triple early in the fourth quarter.
The former Sacramento King compiled 17 points on 4-of-8 shooting in 20 minutes overall. All four of his makes came from behind the three-point line.
Shaun Livingston also had a solid game, posting 10 points on a 4-of-5 clip. He did a great job of getting to where he wanted on the floor, burying mid-range jumpers from both corners. Most importantly, he hit a pair of huge free throws late in the fourth.
Mirza Teletovic played 23 minutes, but he went scoreless.
Key Player Grades: Toronto Raptors
Kyle Lowry, Point Guard
Kyle Lowry did not shoot the ball well, going 7-of-19 from the floor, but he made up for that by getting to the free-throw line 14 times and making 12 of those foul shots.
Thanks to his proficiency at the charity stripe, he scored 28 points.
The stocky floor general also grabbed seven rebounds and played very solid defense on Williams.
Lowry remained aggressive throughout the contest despite struggling to get shots to fall, and his assertiveness allowed him to earn key trips to the free-throw line late in the game.
He played his butt off all series, and he is going to get paid this summer because of it.
DeMar DeRozan, Shooting Guard
DeMar DeRozan looked like a deer in headlights for much of Game 7, very similar to the way he looked in Game 1.
He scored only four points in the first half, and while he was able to score 14 over the final 24 minutes, he never left his imprint on this contest.
He shot 5-of-12, missing numerous shots around the rim. He pulled the string on a couple of floaters, and he also badly missed a few jumpers.
He went 7-of-7 from the free-throw line in scoring 18 total points, but Toronto needed him to be bigger Sunday afternoon.
Jonas Valanciunas, Center
Jonas Valanciunas really struggled in his first career Game 7.
I'm not sure if the big man was afraid of the moment or was just off, but whatever the cause, it severely limited his impact in this contest.
He scored only three points on 1-of-5 shooting, missing some shots around the basket and appearing to be somewhat tentative.
He added five rebounds, but he also posted a minus-23. Yikes.
Terrence Ross, Shooting Guard
It just wasn't Terrence Ross' series.
The second-year wing scored nine points in Game 7, missing seven of his 11 shot attempts and going 0-of-3 from long distance despite getting some good looks. He also committed a silly foul on Williams out near half court with 1:41 remaining.
Outings like this were essentially the case for Ross all along against Brooklyn, as he failed to leave his fingerprints on any of these contests.
Amir Johnson, Power Forward
Amir Johnson had a monster first quarter, going for 12 points and four rebounds on 6-of-7 shooting. He took advantage of his matchup with Pierce, shooting over the top of him inside. By halftime, Johnson had 18 points and six boards and was 8-of-11.
However, in the second half, he ran into some foul trouble, picking up his fifth personal about halfway through the third period.
Johnson would proceed to foul out at the 7:53 mark of the fourth quarter, finishing with 20 points and 10 rebounds, with five of those coming on the offensive end. It was a great outing for the big man, who paced the Raptors offense when his teammates were struggling early.
He shot 9-of-12.
Greivis Vasquez, Sixth Man
Greivis Vasquez had a good series, but he was all but invisible in Game 7. The only time you saw him was when he was complaining about foul calls.
He scored only two points on 1-of-3 shooting and picked up five fouls in 25 minutes.
He had no big late-game triples in this contest.
Patrick Patterson was awesome off the pine for Toronto, not missing from any area of the floor. He made all five of his field-goal attempts and went a perfect 6-of-6 from the free-throw line for 16 points. He also grabbed eight rebounds in 34 minutes and was a plus-14.
Outside of Patterson, the Raptors bench gave the team nothing. John Salmons scored three points, and Chuck Hayes contributed two, but that was it.
With Vasquez doing next to nothing, the scarcity of points from the rest of the Toronto pine hurt.
Patterson's contributions were huge, though, and that earns the reserves a good mark.
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