Opportunity looms as Nets try for 2-0 series lead against Raptors

Josh Newman, Field Reporter

The Nets are about to get greedy and with good reason.

Led by a big fourth quarter from Paul Pierce on Saturday afternoon, the Nets went up to Toronto and came back with home-court advantage thanks to a 94-87 Game 1 win, and with Game 2 set for Air Canada Centre on Tuesday evening, the possibility of putting a hammerlock on this best-of-7 series with Games 3 and 4 at Barclays Center is very real.joe game 1

“We’re gonna do everything we can,” Pierce said after practice at PNY Center on Monday afternoon. “We’re going up there with an urgency to try to get a second win, that’s all that’s on our mind. We made little adjustments like we didn’t play our best game, so we’re going up there to try and get the second one.”

“We want to get this one as well,” Deron Williams said. “At some point, we we’re gonna have to win one in Toronto, so I think it was good we won the first one, but now we can’t let our guard down because we stole one. We’ve gotta be greedy, we’ve gotta go in there and be ready to play. We don’t want them to bounce back and get a win.”

Before Pierce came up with nine of his 15 points in the fourth quarter on Saturday, including several big buckets late, it had not been the Nets’ best game offensively. They shot just 42.5 percent from the floor and 16.7 percent from 3-point range. The one constant for four quarters on Saturday was Joe Johnson.

His 24 points on 8-for-13 shooting, eight rebounds and four assists in 45 minutes came at the expense of DeMar DeRozan and Terrance Ross. Johnson used his size to his advantage on Saturday, specifically in the post, both as a scorer and as a facilitator.

Johnson has never been accused of being naive, so he knows that with the Raptors needing a win to avoid an 0-2 hole, they will make adjustments. It will be Johnson’s job to make his own adjustments once the Raptors show him something different.

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Andrei Kirilenko didn’t play in Game 1? Why?

Andrei Kirilenko did not play in Game 1 against Toronto (coach’s decision).

During the game, Masha Lopatova — Kirilenko’s wife — posted a picture of AK on the bench on Instagram with the caption, “…Are you Kidding like Jason…?”

“She wanted me to play. I spoke with her, and she said she was surprised, but she’s a fan,” Kirilenko told reporters on Sunday.

“When I watched the game everybody played so well,” Kirilenko continued. “I didn’t even see a position for me to fill-in because Terrence Ross obviously got two quick fouls, [DeMar)]DeRozan didn’t have a great game and they played a small lineup with Kyle Lowry, [Greivs] Vasquez and even [Nando] De Colo at three and two big guys, so [there] wasn’t really a place for me on the floor, to be honest.”

Brian Erni

A few fans and I actually discussed this via email on Sunday, and I have to say, I was surprised at the entire situation. First, I was shocked Kirilenko didn’t play any minutes. But that said, I’m also floored that fans seem to mind. At the risk of sounding like a Jason Kidd apologist here, why is this a bad thing? The Nets won. They didn’t have to use Kirilenko, who is 33-years-old and took his share of bangs and bruises (not to mention his bout with back spasms) during the season, and got some spot starts down the stretch, which saw him play 23 minutes or more in his final five games. If we take this at face value that he’s not hurt, I can’t say I’m particularly upset.

His wife was mad, but that’s just a natural defense mechanism. I get it. But Kirilenko seems to understand the basketball sense it made, so why am I going to bother getting my feather ruffled over it? I can just about guarantee that Brooklyn is going to lean on Kirilenko more than a little bit if they’re going to have a chance of going to distance in these playoffs, so Kidd will bide his time and let the series come to him. I just don’t see anything wrong with that. 

Deron Williams blackout warmups vs Bulls

Deron vs. Deron: Garnett says D-Will is too hard on himself

What’s it like to be the focal point of the Nets’ offense? Not that easy, and according to Kevin Garnett, Deron Williams takes that responsibility very seriously. Maybe even too seriously.

“When things get tough, he has a support system to let him know that it’s not the end of the world, and not to be so hard on himself,” Kevin Garnett explained to reporters on Sunday.

“I think Deron’s biggest problem had been Deron,” Garnett continued. “He’s very, very hard on himself to the point where you have to pull him to the side . . . and when he comes out of that, aw, man. He’s very, very hard to guard, very difficult to deal with and we need him to be like that.”

Brian Erni

Williams’ tenure in Brooklyn has been full of ups and downs, but when he’s right, he may very well be a top five point guard in the league. We saw some of that on Saturday, when he was lighting it up from the field, running the floor, hitting transition threes. When he’s assertive and doesn’t fake out of good looks, D-Will is every bit that player he was in Utah. That’s a very exciting sight to see.

It’s an interesting perspective to hear from Garnett, who really has become the de facto voice of the franchise. Once again, it’s just another reason that July blockbuster looks great in hindsight. That support system for Williams, that didn’t exist last year. He had to shoulder it all. Now he has Paul Pierce, Garnett, and Andrei Kirilenko — veterans who can remind him it’s up to all 15 players to execute and play a role, not just him. One game in, it looks like that could be the comfort Williams needs to play at his highest level.  

Read more: Newsday (Boone)

Watch: Nets move focus toward Game 2

GEICO SportsNite hears from Paul Pierce and Deron Williams, as Brooklyn looks towards Game 2 against the Raptors.

pierce vs raptors game 1

Paul Pierce: That’s why they brought me here!

The Truth isn’t extinct quite yet.

After the back cover of the Toronto Sun proclaimed Paul Pierce and company to be a dinosaurs, the 16-year veteran scored nine consecutive points in the final three minutes of Game 1 to seal a Brooklyn victory.

Pierce drained a turnaround, step back jumper with 51.9 seconds left to ice the win for the Nets, then had a message for the raucous Toronto crowd.

“That’s why they brought me here,” Pierce screamed to the crowd of nearly 20,000 on hand at the Air Canada Centre. “That’s why they brought me here!”

“[I’ve seen Pierce do that] countless times, man,” Kevin Garnett told reporters of his friend’s performance. “I knew when he hit that three, I knew he was in a rhythm. And then the ball just found him and he was just classic ‘Truth.’ Epic.”

Brian Erni

It’s been said countless times in the last 24 hours, even by Pierce himself, but bears repeating: This is the reason Billy King mortgaged future drafts and took on the luxury tax bill. You could feel the game slipping away in the fourth quarter on Saturday, but Pierce stepped up and took over, scoring the bulk of his 15 points in the closing minutes. It was a vintage Pierce performance, one that the Nets know is much more common this time of year.

I’ve talked a bit about the Raptors’ closing ability this season, but it was Brooklyn who was able to turn up the heat in crunch time on Saturday. As a result, the Nets will go back to Barclays Center with no worse than a split in Toronto, and — even though it was Deron Williams and Joe Johnson that did the bulk of the heavy lifting — they have Pierce to thank for locking this road win down.

Read more: NY Daily News (Bondy), NY Post (Bontemps)

Masai Ujiri

Raptors GM drops F-bomb on Brooklyn

Prior to Game 1 of their series on Saturday, Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri had some two words for Brooklyn: Eff ‘em.

“F— Brooklyn,” the Raptors executive exclaimed at the team’s pre-game pep rally.

At halftime, Ujiri apologized…kind of.

“You know how I feel. I don’t like (the Nets), but I apologize.”

It didn’t seem to pique any interest on the Nets sideline. When told about the incident, Jason Kidd said he didn’t hear the comment.  “I don’t even know who the Toronto GM is.’’

Brian Erni

I think this is a non-story. Obviously, it’s a little salacious, because it’s hard to imagine a large market GM, like Billy King for instance, doing the same thing. Still, it’s apparent that Toronto is playing with an “us-versus-the-world” mentality, and I think this is a byproduct of that thinking.

Plus, as a fan, don’t we always complain that it doesn’t seem like the players and executives care as much as we do? Here’s a guy who is obviously passionate, and I think that resonates with fans. It’s not going to make any difference in what happens on the court, so if it adds a little intrigue, so be it.

Game Recap: Nets 94 — Raptors 87

The Nets defeated the Toronto Raptors by a score of 94-87 Saturday afternoon at the Air Canada Centre to take a 1-0 lead in their first round series. >> Read the full recap and box score at SNY.tv.

Need to Know: Deron Williams scored 24 points (8-of-20 from the field) with three assists and a rebound.

Joe Johnson added 24 (7-of-9) of his own with eight rebounds, four assists, and two steals in 44 minutes.

Brooklyn turned the ball over just three times in the first half, but 19 times overall, while forcing Toronto into 24 giveaways.

There was a 10 minute delay in the third quarter due to a malfunctioning shot clock. Toronto’s PA announcer was forced to give shot clock updates.

Brian Erni

Quite a chippy first half that saw both Kevin Garnett and Andray Blatche charged with technicals, though KG’s was much more questionable than Blatche’s. If Game 1 is an indication, this is going to be a very intense series with two teams that don’t have much love lost for one another…Man, Garnett couldn’t buy a bucket from the field, and even struggled from the line. If Brooklyn can get any kind of offensive production out of their big man the rest of the series, they’ll be very dangerous…In fairness, maybe Masai Ujiri was talking about Brooklyn Decker?…Kidd looked composed and in control in his first playoff game on the bench. I came away very impressed, and confident that — when it comes to crunch time and potential future series — he’ll be able to keep up with the veteran coaches in the league.

What’s Next: The Nets and Raptors will play Game 2 in Toronto on Tuesday at 7:30 PM. The game can be seen locally on YES and nationally on NBATV.

First Round, Game 1: Nets vs. Raptors, 12:30 PM

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….. Brooklyn Nets                                                                 Toronto Raptors
1 Deron Williams Kyle Lowry
2 Shaun Livingston Demar Derozan
3 Joe Johnson Terrence Ross
4 Paul Pierce Amir Johnson
5 Kevin Garnett Jonas Valanciunas

The Good: The Nets have won their only prior playoff match up with the Raptors, which came back in 2007. Brooklyn (then New Jersey) won in six games…In the Nets’ last meeting with Toronto (a 101-97 win), Paul Pierce scored 10 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter and Joe Johnson added 14…Over the course of franchise history, the Raptors are just 1-5 in the opening games of playoff series.

The Bad: DeMar DeRozan (three games) and Kyle Lowry (four games) averaged 22.3 and 22.0 points, respectively, against the Nets this season…Amir Johnson finished the season ranked fifth in the NBA with a .56.2 (344-for-612) field goal shooting percentage…The Nets and Raptors committed 62 turnovers a piece (15.5 per game) in the four regular season meetings.