NEW YORK – DeMar DeRozan scored 24 points as the beaten-up Toronto Raptors tied their playoff series with the Brooklyn Nets with a 87-79 victory Sunday.
The victory was the Raptors’ first playoff win on the road since a win over Philadelphia way back in 2001.
A hobbling Kyle Lowry added 22 points, while Amir Johnson finished with 17. Patrick Patterson and Greivis Vasquez finished with nine points apiece, and Patterson grabbed a team-high nine rebounds.
The best-of-seven Eastern Conference playoff series heads to Toronto tied at two wins apiece. Game 5 is Wednesday at the Air Canada Centre.
Paul Pierce led the Nets with 22 points, while Mirza Teletovic had 12. Kevin Garnett and Deron Williams finished with 10 points apiece.
The Raptors scored 35 points in the first quarter and led by as much as 17 points — the biggest lead by either team in this series — in what was a dogfight of a game.
The Raptors started to come apart in the second quarter – they ran into foul trouble and couldn’t hit shots, and scored a combined 32 points in the second and third quarters.
Still, the nailbiter went into the fourth all tied up 67-67. The Nets took a four-point lead but consecutive baskets by Valanciunas – including a hook shot over future Hall of Famer Garnett – then a three-pointer by Vasquez had the Raptors up by four points with 4:07 to play.
The Nets wouldn’t threaten again, and when the final whistle blew the Raptors fans in attendance at Barclays Center stood and applauded the Toronto players off the floor.
The Nets won Games 1 and 3, while the Raptors took Game 2 in what’s been an incredibly even matchup all season between these two teams. Prior to Sunday, Toronto had outscored the Nets 678-677 in their seven meetings.
Lowry, who came away from Friday’s game with a bad right knee and a busted lip that required a stitch, was noticeably limping at times, but coach Dwane Casey had said pre-game: “He’s one of the toughest guys I’ve been around as a guard as far as fighting through things.”
The trainers worked on Lowry courtside when he wasn’t in the game. Casey sat him down when he picked up his third foul midway through the second quarter, despite his demonstrative pleas to stay in. The Raptors point guard, who’s been the heart and soul through the team’s run to the post-season, was still arguing the call with referees during the next timeout.
With Terrence Ross M.I.A. for a fourth straight game, Landry Fields sidelined with a bad back, and the number of Raptors in early foul trouble, coach Dwane Casey went deep into his bench, utilizing John Salmons, Chuck Hayes and Steve Novak for stretches of the third and fourth quarters.
Ross, who dropped 51 points in a game earlier this season, has struggled in his playoff debut, and had another rough night Sunday, finishing with zero points in 16 minutes.
Fields, who got dumped on his back during Friday’s game, didn’t dress.
While the Raptors braced a hostile crowd at Barclays Center – especially after GM Masai Ujiri’s now famous F-bomb about Brooklyn – it never really materialized. The crowds on either Friday or Sunday didn’t pack the auditory punch of the Air Canada Centre. Fans waved white towels, and there was the odd chant of “Ref you suck!” A group of Nets fans chanted “Raptors suck!” before the singing of O Canada.
There were large pockets of red-clad Raptors fans in attendance, and their cheers for Raptors’ baskets down the stretch almost negated Brooklyn’s homecourt advantage.
Rihanna sat courtside, along with Michael K. Williams and Felicia (Snoop) Pearson – Omar and Snoop from “The Wire.” Williams did the Nets’ introductions. Russian boxer Ruslan Provodnikov, the current world light welterweight champion, was also in attendance.
Meanwhile, back in Toronto on Sunday, thousands of fans jammed Maple Leaf Square to watch the game on the giant screen outside Air Canada Centre. They chanted “We the North!” Two fans participated in a tug-of-war with a Nets T-shirt on stage, eventually ripping it.
Amir Johnson led the way with 11 points as the Raptors sprinted out to an 11-point lead just three minutes after tipoff. They continued to build their advantage, and seven straight points by Johnson put Toronto up by 15. They led 35-22 at the end of the first.
The Raptors stretched their advantage to 17 points with 5:40 left in the first half. But the Nets went on a 14-2 run to pull within five points. The Raptors headed to the locker-room with a 51-44 lead at halftime.
Toronto went a horrible 1-for-16 to open the third quarter, but managed to remain within five points of the Nets, and the game went i
© The Canadian Press, 2014