Apr 19, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Brooklyn Nets guard Joe Johnson (7) goes to the basket as Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) plays defense in game one during the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Air Canada Centre. The Nets beat the Raptors 94-87. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Brooklyn Nets 94 - Toronto Raptors 87: Veterans rule

Apr 19, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry (7) goes to the basket against Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) in game one during the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Raptors weathered a dreadful dry spell early in their first playoff game in five years. The Brooklyn Nets had delivered a powerful punch, in the form of an 18-2 run. Yet the Raps had chipped away. A Kyle Lowry 3-ball as time expired in Q3 had brought the home team back within 5 points. Impossibly loud Raps fans, both inside the Air Canada Centre, and in the street outside,  implored the team to pull ahead, and Greivis Vasquez’s 3-ball with just over 5 minutes to play did just that. Another Raps come-from-behind victory? It was not to be. Joe Johnson and then Kevin Garnett made maddeningly easy jump shots in the paint. Another Raps miss, and Paul Pierce took over. The ageless veteran hit 4 shots on 4 trips down the floor, starting with a dagger 3-ball. Suddenly the margin was 8 points, and the Raps had to foul. They got no help from Johnson, another vet who knows how to play in crunch time. He made all 4 of his tries, and the Raps were done.

For those of us who thought the youthful Raps could handle the playoff pressure, this game was a giant disappointment. DeMar DeRozan was the biggest victim of nerves; how else to explain his 3 of 13 shooting? He was 10 of 10 from the free throw line, but it wasn’t nearly enough. DeRozan’s scoring is the backbone of the Raps’ offense. If he has too many more games like this one, our playoff adventure will be brief. Jonas Valanciunas had a double-double of 17 points and 18 rebounds, but also was charged with 6 turnovers, several of which were unforced. Overeager Terrence Ross got in foul difficulty early, and never got untracked on offense, scoring one basket. That’s the same number as Amir Johnson, meaning that 3 starters scored 5 buckets. We wouldn’t beat the Bucks shooting like that. Kyle Lowry led the Raps with 22 points, but also committed 5 turnovers.

Not all the wounds were self-inflicted. The Nets played swarming defense all game; open shots were hard to come by, and the Raps committed too many shot-clock violations. With Ross sitting, the Nets were able to exploit the Raps’ D with paint penetration and ball movement. Their backcourt of Deron Williams and Johnson scored 24 each, more than negating the Lowry-DeRozan pairing, which I thought would be a source of strength for Toronto.

While there were a number of dubious calls against the Raps (and the Nets were whistled for only one foul in Q4, which defies belief), the zebras were not the cause of defeat.

Our team must put this game behind them. They had their chances, and couldn’t exploit them. The Raps get another chance on Tuesday evening to get rolling.

PUTBACKS: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was in attendance…the shot clocks stopped working, and Herbie the PA announcer had to call out the time remaining in 5-second increments…Vasquez scored 18 and Patrick Patterson 9 off the bench…Andray Blatche and Kevin Garnett were both issued technical fouls for separate assaults on Lowry – why can those giants pick on someone their own size?…the Nets hit only 4 of 24 from beyond the arc

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