Experience Over Youth as Nets Topple Raptors
The New Jersey nets continued to defy the odds by upsetting third seeded Toronto 94-87 in Game 1 of their NBA First Round Playoff series with the help of their battle-tested veterans.
Playoff experience was the major difference between the teams before this series started. Of the Toronto starters, only Kyle Lowry (13 games) and Amir Johnson( 11 games) had playoff experience. . On the other side of the fence, Paul Pierce has 136 total playoff games by himself. Kevin Garnett has 131, Joe Johnson 69 and Deron Williams 51. And that experience, and the lack thereof, showed in Game 1.
Look at the big difference in the Game 1 scoring stats of some of Toronto’s key contributors:
|FGM-FGASeason Average||FGA-FGMGame 1||Points per gameSeason Average||Points ScoredGame 1|
|DeMar De Rozan||7.6-17.8||3-13||22.7||14|
|Terrence Ross||3.9- 9.3||1-4||10.9||3|
Not even key reserve John Salmons, who had a 22 game and 11.2 points per game playoff experience, was spared by the playoff atmosphere and the Nets’ active defense.
Small Ball Defense
As usual, Brooklyn was outrebounded 38-45. But the Nets’ “small ball” defense suffocated the Raptors and compounded their woes. They forced the Raptors to 19 turnovers, four more than their season average, and scored 17 points off those Toronto turnovers. They also limited the Raptors to just 71 field goal attempts, 10 shy of Toronto’s season average of 81.9 field goal attempts per game. The Raptors also shot a dismal 39.4% from the field in Game 1, which is way below their regular season mark of 44.5%. The Raptors also scored 14 less total points than their regular season average.
Although Garnett had only 5 points, he set the tone defensively for the Nets by grabbing 8 rebounds, blocking one shot and taking two steals. His technical foul in the 2nd quarter kept the Nets and Coach Jason Kidd fired up for the rest of the game, and until the “Truth” set them free.
Can’t Handle the Truth
Paul Pierce was the truth in the fourth quarter, piling up 9 points in the final canto including a huge three pointer with 2:57 left to give the Nets a commanding 82-76 lead. As reported by espn.go on 4.19.14, Pierce said:
“You just get that feeling, you’ve been in those situations a number of times. I don’t get rattled in the fourth quarter, down the stretch or in playoff settings. I’ve been in pretty much every playoff setting that you can imagine. I just try to stay calm and bring my calmness to the game.”
Calm was an understatement as Pierce hit 4-5 shots in the final three minutes of the game to put away the Raptors.
Joe Johnson and Deron Williams top scored for the Nets with 25 points apiece. The veteran presence of the Nets’ stars was visibly felt during the game as the Nets were +20 with Pierce and D-Will on the floor, +15 with Joe and +10 with KG.
Kyle Lowry led the Raptors with 22 points. And as consolation, the Raptors got big games from their foreign recruits. Venezuelan guard Grieves Vasquez went 5-11 from the floor, including 3-5 from three point territory. He finished with 18 points. Lithuanian star Jonas Valanciunas became the 2nd player in team history to have a double double in his playoff debut with his 17 points and 18 rebounds in a terrific effort. Coach Dwayne Casey said of his Lithuanian big man:
“He grew up today and that was huge for us,”
But now down 0-1 and having home court advantage snatched by the Nets, the Raptors have to bounce back right away. Game 2 is on Tuesday night and they’ve got to do more than just growing up to face the “Truth”.
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