TORONTO — The Toronto Raptors and Brooklyn Nets played it close all last season.
The Nets eked out a victory in the seventh game of their first-round playoff series on May 4 that went down to the last play.
The Raptors took the suspense out of their first meeting this season on Wednesday, pulling away in the fourth quarter in a 105-89 victory as guard Kyle Lowry scored 20 points and dished out 12 assists.
“We gave them a battle for three quarters and then we kind of fell apart,” Nets coach Lionel Hollins said. “We just started throwing the ball to them instead of us, or throwing the ball out of bounds.”
The Raptors (20-6) outscored the Nets 29-16 in the fourth quarter and won their fourth in a row to reach 20 wins before the Christmas break for the first time in franchise history. The Nets dropped to 10-14 after losing on two successive nights.
“I thought in the second half we did a better job of keeping them off the boards,” Toronto coach Dwane Casey said. “That’s what was killing us in the first half, our lack of defensive rebounding and finding the body. It sounds very fundamental but that’s what we have to do. Defensive rebounding is our Achilles heel right now.”
Center Mason Plumlee led the Nets with 23 points and eight rebounds and said fatigue was not the problem.
“A lot of mistakes, turnovers and defensive breakdowns,” he said. “I don’t think it was being tired or anything. It was mentally making errors that really cost us.”
The teams meet three more times this season and the next meeting is Jan. 30 in Brooklyn.
“This is going to be a great series,” Plumlee said. “They’re a very good team. It’s going to be good when they come to Brooklyn, too.”
Center Jonas Valanciunas added 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for Toronto. Forward Amir Johnson, forward Patrick Patterson and guard Greivis Vasquez each scored 13 and guard Lou Williams added 10.
Forward Joe Johnson added 17 points for the Nets while forward Mirza Teletovic chipped in with 14 and point guard Deron Williams had 11.
“We have to be able to keep our focus and be concentrating in the fourth quarter,” Teletovic said. “I know a lot of teams they read the games, they reset after half time and they come in and try to take away everything we have been doing right.”
Vasquez did not feel the win was more rewarding because it was against the team that eliminated them last season.
“No, it’s another win for us, which is important especially when we get them at home,” Vasquez said. “So we just have to take care of home. We did that tonight. So we just have to be professional about it and keep playing. Yes, I feel we’re better (than last season) but it is just still too early. We can’t really be too happy.”
The Nets were ahead by as many as 11 points before finishing the first quarter with a 35-27 lead. The Raptors came back to take a 52-51 lead at halftime on Lowry’s bank shot.
The lead was still one until forward James Johnson’s layup with 33 seconds left in the third quarter gave the Raptors a 76-73 lead heading into the fourth.
The Raptors extended their lead to nine on a 3-pointer by Williams. Lowry put the Raptors ahead by 11 points with 5:41 to play on a driving layup and Patterson’s jumper 30 seconds later pushed the lead to 11.
After Williams hit a jumper for the Nets, Patterson’s 3-pointer made it 95-81 with 4:35 to play. Lowry scored to give the Raptors an 18-point lead with just more than three minutes left and the Raptors were in command.
It was 105-87 when Vasquez hit a 3-pointer approaching the final minute.
“There were a couple of games last season where we were in situations where we could have run away with it,” Patterson said. “But they kept fighting and fighting. We were missing shots and they were playing great defense. It seemed like it was back and forth a lot. The team that we have this year we feel we can compete with the best of them. Going up against Brooklyn tonight, what we did, it’s not a shock.”
NOTES: G Sergey Karasev (strained left oblique) did not play for the Nets against the Raptors after leaving Tuesday night’s loss to Miami with a side injury. … Nets F Kevin Garnett, who played 21 minutes on Tuesday, was not in the lineup Wednesday, the fourth straight time he has missed the second half of back-to-backs. … Raptors G Landry Fields, who has spent most of the season on the bench until recently, made his first 3-pointer since March 22, 2013, against Orlando on Monday. … After splitting four games last season, the teams met in the first round of the playoffs with the Nets winning the seventh game 97-96 on a last-second stop. On aggregate, each team scored 1,070 points in their meetings. … The Raptors visit the Detroit Pistons on Friday. The Nets travel to Cleveland to play the Cavaliers on Friday.
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