The Toronto Raptors fan base has been exceptional during the first two home games, the young Raptors will leave their city with the series tied at one. As for the Nets, Brooklyn stole Game 1 in large part to their veteran leadership. While the Raptors weren’t quite on their game, the Nets got better as the game went on. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett doing things they’ve done many times in past postseason battles, making winning basketball plays when needed. The series shifts to the Barclays center for Games 3 & 4, game three tips off tomorrow night at 7pm Eastern. What have we learned through the first two games?
The Nets have made a concerted effort to take DeMar DeRozan and Terrance Ross out of the game, to limit their contributions and make other Raptors beat them on the perimeter. That worked well in the first game of the series, as DeRozan and Ross scored a combined 17 points on 4 of 17 shooting. Brooklyn did a spectacular job keeping DeRozan out of the paint, making him settle for ill-advised jump shots. While DeMar has been effective shooting midrange jumpers, the Nets pushed him out of his spots, making him shoot very long two pointers. While Joe Johnson did a decent job defending him, it was really the length of Shaun Livngston. The duo of Johnson & Livingston made life tough on Ross & DeRozan, Johnshon had a huge game on the offensive end in game one. More impressive was his work on the glass, he pulled down eight rebounds to go with his 24 points. Paul Pierce met the challenge with the game on the line, as he’s done many times in his career. Closing out the Raptors with a big three pointer and drive down the stretch, he and Deron Williams combined for 48 points in game one(24 a piece).
That wasn’t the case in the second game as Brooklyn had to endure horrible shooting performances from both Williams and Pierce, they shot a combined 7 of 26 from the field (22 points). Fortunate for them, Kevin Garnett and Mirza Teletovic picked up some of the slack, Joe Johnson had another solid outing but it wasn’t enough as the Nets lost Game 2. The Nets lost the game on the charity stripe and on the glass, they missed eight free throws and lost by five. As for the battle on the glass, they were dominated by the Raptors to the tune of 52 to 30. The rebounding was much closer in Game 1, the edge was 45-37 in Toronto’s favor. The Nets have won the turnover battle in both games, yet the series is tied. Second chance opportunities have hurt them.
Game 3 Keys
- Narrow the rebounding margin, if not win
- Consistent Bench Production
- Get Pierce involved early
- Move the ball, don’t let it stick on offense
- Stop fouling, four players with 4 or more fouls in Game 2
The Raptors may have been nervous in Game 1 or may have just played poorly. Any combination of the two don’t give the Nets the credit they deserve for the Game 1 win. Toronto learned that they cannot afford DeRozan and Ross to be absent offensively, no matter the contributions of others. One of the surprises thus far has been the play of Jonas Valanciunas, he had 17 points, 18 rebounds and 2 blocks in Game 1. That performance was followed by a 15 point, 14 rebound effort in Game 2. His presence in the paint has paid huge dividends for the Raptors, he’s protected the rim fairly well along with his efforts on the glass. While Ross & DeRozan have been struggling, Kyle Lowry has been a constant. He provided several big time baskets to end Brooklyn runs in Game 1, Lowry refused to let his team stay down. His leadership played a huge role in their Game 2 win, along with the resurgence of DeMar DeRozan.
Lowry continues to display his all around game, filling the box score in both contests. He’s done a remarkable job walking the line of getting guys involved and scoring when needed, more impressive may have been his work on the glass. DeMar scored 30 points in Game 2; while he struggled a bit form the floor, he had it going well enough to hit a couple huge mid-range jump shots down the stretch. Ross on the other hand, continued to struggle as he shot just 1 of 8 from the field. He was the only Raptor in the starting lineup that didn’t score in double figures in Game 2. Amir Johnson picked up his scoring slack, providing 16 points & 9 rebounds. Also important for the Raptors, were the contributions of Patrick Patterson and Grevis Vasquez. Their production off the bench will be needed if the Raptors wish to win this series. The Raptors might also want to see how things go if they stop turning the ball over so much, it may help.
Game 3 Keys
- Take care of the ball
- Get DeRozan & Ross on track early
- Keep Valanciunas & Johnson engaged offensively
- Bench Production, Patterson & Vasquez must continue strong play
- Continue to attack, maintain procession to the charity stripe