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Nets pull away from Raptors

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TORONTO — Playoff experience is supposed to give the Brooklyn Nets an advantage over the Toronto Raptors.

The Nets have it, the Raptors do not.

Veteran forward Paul Pierce showed just what experience can mean on Saturday. He scored nine of his 15 points in the final three minutes of the game and the Nets took the opener of their playoff series with the Raptors 94-87.

“He’s been doing it for years,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said.

Pierce said, “I just try to stay calm and bring my calmness to the game.”

Guard Deron Williams and forward Joe Johnson each scored 24 points to lead the Nets.

The game was tied 73-73 when Raptors guard Kyle Lowry scored on a driving layup. Then the Nets got busy.

“The key was our defense, being patient,” Williams said. “We were communicating.”

Nets coach Jason Kidd said, “We talked all season about what the six-minute mark means to our team. And what we feel that with the veteran guys making plays for one another, sharing the ball. A play might be called for someone but a teammate might end up with the shot. That was a perfect example of that tonight with Deron (Williams) and Joe (Johnson) playing in the pick and roll and (Paul) benefitting from that and taking advantage of that.”

Johnson also grabbed eight rebounds as did center Kevin Garnett, and guard Shaun Livingston chipped in with 10 points for Brooklyn.

Lowry led Toronto with 22 points, while guard Greivis Vasquez added 18. Center Jonas Valanciunas had 17 points and 18 rebounds for the Raptors, and guard DeMar DeRozan chipped in with 14 points.

“They did good job of double teaming (DeRozan),” Casey said. “We have to make some adjustment on that in order to free him up a little better.”

There was some controversy before the game when Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri told a rally of Raptors supporters outside the Air Canada Centre: “F— Brooklyn.”

“I apologize,” he said at halftime. “Wrong choice of words out there. I apologize to kids out there and to the Brooklyn guys. Nothing against them. Just trying to get our fans going. That’s it.”

When asked for a reaction after the game, Kidd said, “I don’t know who the GM is.”

The Nets were 4-for-24 in taking 3-point shots but the Raptors made 19 turnovers, 10 more than Brooklyn.

The Raptors, who trailed by five entering the fourth quarter, tied the game on five straight points by forward Patrick Patterson, who hit a 3-pointer and a running slam dunk.

The Nets pulled ahead by four only to have the Raptors tie it again, 73-73, with 6:25 left.

The teams exchanged the lead before Garnett hit on a fadeaway shot and Pierce added a 3-pointer gave the Nets a six-point lead with 2:57 to play.

Valanciunas cut the lead to four and Pierce got it back to six and then scored again to make the lead eight points before Vasquez hit a 3-point shot.

But Pierce scored again to give the Nets a seven-point lead with 51.5 seconds to play. Lowry cut the lead to five with a layup, but Williams made two free throws with 22.7 seconds remaining to restore the seven-point lead.

“I like to feed off the emotion of the crowd, especially on the road,” Pierce said.

NOTES: The Raptors and Nets split their four-game regular season series, with each team winning once on the road. … This is the second time the Raptors have opened a playoff series at home. The other time was in 2007, when they opened against the New Jersey Nets, who won the series 4-2. … The Nets lost four of their final five games of the season and the team’s regulars were rested in a 29-point loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers for the final game on Wednesday. Brooklyn dropped from fifth to sixth in the Eastern Conference and avoided playing the fourth-seeded Chicago Bulls, and instead were matched with third-seeded Toronto. … Game 2 of the series will be played at the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday night before the series moves to Brooklyn for games Friday and Sunday.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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