Prior to the start of the 2013-2014 NBA season, the Brooklyn Nets were considered one of the favorites to challenge for a title. Now, they are one loss away from being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
The Nets return home for Game Six with the Toronto Raptors on Friday night. Toronto took a 3-2 series with a victory in Game Five.
The Raptors dominated the first three quarters of Game Five, taking a 22-point lead into the fourth quarter. Brooklyn had a chance to win, though, coming all the way back to tie the contest. They were unable to ever take the lead, falling just short.
Perhaps most notable about the comeback was the collection of Nets players that were not on the court during the 44-point fourth quarter. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett watched from the bench, as Brooklyn attempted to claim the victory.
Brooklyn traded for Garnett and Pierce in the offseason for situations like Game Five. They are nearing the end of their careers, but their playoff experience is valuable to a team that is looking to reach the NBA Finals. However, neither future Hall of Famer was a part of the nearly historic comeback.
"Yeah, I thought the guys on the floor were fighting and they got us back in the game," Brooklyn head coach Jason Kidd said, after the loss. " . . . Those guys weren't tired, so they wanted to continue to keep playing. So it was more of a rhythm. The guys were knocking down shots . . . So when you have guys playing the way they did and fighting, you've got to leave those guys out there."
Garnett hasn’t been much of a factor in the entire series. Including his four points in 12 minutes on Wednesday, the veteran is averaging just 6.8 points and 4.4 rebounds in 17.8 minutes per game against Toronto. He registered career lows in points and assists in the regular season.
Pierce has been much more of a contributor this year, averaging 13.5 points in the regular season and 14.4 points in the series. He was a non-factor in Game Five, and the Nets were outscored by 31 points with him on the floor.
After the likes of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Mizra Teletovic helped the Nets get back in the game, the Raptors’ top players allowed them to secure the victory. Kyle Lowry made some key fourth-quarter shots, scoring 36 points. DeMar DeRozan added free throws in the final minutes, to seal the win. Lowry and DeRozan combined to score all but six of Toronto’s fourth-quarter points.
"He's (Lowry) great," Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said. "He did a great job. He led us. But this game tonight, we've gotta learn from it. There's so many learning experiences from tonight's game: handling the lead, withstanding the prosperity. Embracing pressure, how about that one? We gotta do that from top to bottom."
The play of the two point guards has been an important factor in the outcome of each game. In the Nets’ two victories, Williams is averaging 23 points per game. He’s totaled just 36 points in the three losses.
Player To Watch: Kyle Lowry
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Place: Barclays Center
TV Channel: ESPN 2
Online Stream: WatchESPN
Point Spread: Nets by five
Prediction: Toronto 103, Brooklyn 100