The Brooklyn Nets have seized the initiative in their playoff series with the Toronto Raptors, having nearly stolen game five, then dominating game six. If the Raps want to move on (and they do!), they will need to do two things they have failed to so far, namely: play a 48-minute game, and receive contributions from all their starters.
The loss in Brooklyn must be mentally set aside. The game was an offensive flop for the Raps, featuring eyesore stats like Kyle Lowry’s 4 of 16 shooting, and Terrence Ross’ zero for four from beyond the arc. Mix in Jonas Valanciunas’ first half no-show (3 fouls, no points), and it’s something of a miracle the Raps were even around, sort of, in the second half. However, the Raps did limit the Nets to 37 points after intermission.
Toronto is very much alive, and should play well in front of their delirious and hopeful fans. I’m stubborn enough to believe they can gut out a victory if they:
- move the ball on offense. The Nets are crowding our ball handlers out past the arc, which renders a half-court set more problematic. However, if the ball can be safely worked into the low block, the Nets’ double-teamers will be in scramble mode for a precious few seconds. Jonas needs to get the rock and go – no ball fakes. The paint will be open for one of his hook shots.
- keep getting TRoss a chance to hit his long jumper. Yes, he’s a woeful 4 for 21, or 19%, in the first 6 games, but we must have faith. He’s better than this, and we need him to make shots, otherwise life for DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry will get even more claustrophobic than it already is.
- get Amir Johnson some early looks. Our power forward had a dreadful game, and I knew our team was in trouble when he missed a Q1 bunny on a fine feed from TRoss.
I called for this series to go the limit, although I would have been most happy to see it end Friday night. The Raps won the third seed, and home court advantage, on merit and for a reason. They will ride the fans’ excitement to a 102-97 win, and a trip to the second round.