NBA News Wire

Nets hang on to beat Raptors in Game 3

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NEW YORK — Sure, forward Paul Pierce was pleased the Brooklyn Nets were able to get a playoff win and take 2-1 series lead over the Toronto Raptors.

However, his preference and the choice for the rest of the Nets would be to have a final five minutes of Game 3 on Friday go significantly smoother.

The Nets took lead over the Raptors with a 102-98 victory that came after they nearly squandered a 15-point lead due to poor execution on both ends.

Brooklyn never trailed in the final 26:43 and seemed comfortably ahead, leading by double digits in the first 9 1/2 minutes of the fourth. That’s when things became a bit dicey for the Nets, who will have one day to correct the things before Game 4 on Sunday.

“When you out there, you search for perfection,” Pierce said. “No game is perfect but you want to come close to it as possible. By no means did we close the game out like we wanted to. We had a big lead, we didn’t execute on offense and even though we won the game, we want to do a better job because as the rounds start and the games go on, the team figures out what you’re trying to do. If you go to the next round, you can’t afford those kinds of mistakes, so it’s best that you take care of it now.

“We got to understand everything’s on the line right now. You can’t have these silly turnovers, you can’t have these silly fouls late in the game. The game comes down to inches and we got to look at it tomorrow. It feels good to win but at the same time you know you can be a lot better.”

What Pierce was referencing took place after the Nets had a pair of 15-point leads. They took their first 15-point edge with 5:44 remaining on two foul shots by forward Joe Johnson and their second 42 seconds later on a 3-pointer by Johnson.

Then came the tricky part for the Nets, who allowed 32 points and 57.9 percent shooting (11-of-19) in the final 12 minutes. They saw the lead get sliced to single digits for good on point guard Kyle Lowry’s driving layup and foul shot with 2:31 remaining that made it 93-86.

“Honestly, I think we got a little lackadaisical,” Johnson said. “We were up 15 with five minutes left and that’s very uncharacteristic of us to blow a lead like that.”

The lead gradually drifted away to the point where losing seemed like a possibility. That became a strong possibility when Toronto guard DeMar DeRozan sliced through the lane for a layup and hit the foul shot, making it 97-96 with 20.3 seconds remaining.

The Nets made four straight foul shots and when DeRozan’s 3-point attempt with 3.1 seconds left, they escaped, aided by two costly misses at the line by Toronto forward Patrick Patterson who misfired with 19 seconds left on shots that would have forged a 98-98 deadlock.

“I missed them,” Patterson said. “My first big free throws that I ever missed in my life like that. Unfortunately it (stinks) but all I can do is look forward to the next opportunity.”

While the Nets lamented letting a lead nearly slip away, the Raptors were regretting not being assertive and going into attack mode earlier.

“We’ve got to be aggressive through the whole game,” DeRozan said. “We can’t wait till they pick up their aggressiveness and then say we’re going to pick it up too. We’ve got to be aggressive throughout the whole game. I think we relaxed a little bit and then they got a big lead. We tried to fight back but we can’t put ourselves in that situation.”

Before things almost slipped away, the offense was going pretty well, especially from the backcourt of Johnson and Williams. Johnson scored 21 of his 29 points in the second half while Williams added 22 and eight assists.

DeRozan led the Raptors with 30 points but after making four of his first five shots, he wound up 8-of-22 and added to his point total with 13 free throws. Patterson added 17 while Lowry contributed 15 but did so while dealing with a right elbow injury, an injured right knee and a bruise on his bottom lip that required one stitch.

Before the dramatic final five minutes, the Nets used a 10-0 run that helped them take a 49-45 lead at halftime. Pierce scored eight of his 18 in the third as the lead grew to 77-66 entering the fourth.

NOTES: Brooklyn G Shaun Livingston missed practice on Thursday and the Friday morning shootaround with an illness but played in the game. … Before the game, Toronto coach Dwane Casey talked about what it is like to have players with little postseason experience. He said they began to feel better or more confident once they got some “sweat shots” going in while in a rhythm. Casey also said the quick adjustment nature of the postseason has caused him to throw out some offensive sets that the Raptors planned on running. For obvious reasons, he did not disclose which ones. … Toronto G DeMar DeRozan and Brooklyn C Andray Blatche banged knees with each other in the low post with about 6 1/2 minutes left in the second quarter. DeRozan seemed to take the worst of it and stayed on the floor briefly during a Brooklyn possession.