|Once again, Deron Williams played some All-Star-level basketball en route to the Nets' 8th-straight home win|
After a 1st quarter in which they looked slow and old against an athletic Raptors team, the Nets didn't look like a team that would be able to cut their deficit in the Atlantic Division to three games or win their 8th consecutive home game. Behind early scoring from Terrence Ross, Amir Johnson, and Kyle Lowry, Toronto built up a significant lead early on before a 2nd quarter Brooklyn surge brought to score to a nearly-even 51-50 at halftime.
Then, midway through the 3rd quarter, Brooklyn exploded for a 14-0 run that turned this game from one controlled by Dwane Casey's team to one controlled by Jason Kidd's team. A pair of threes from Joe Johnson and Deron Williams apiece gave Brooklyn a 73-60 lead that, even though it was cut to two after a subsequent 11-0 run, save for a few minutes in the final frame, granted the Nets with a lead they would carry until this game ended.
Skip to 2:15 of the 4th quarter, when a Kyle Lowry driving layup–scored on less-than-stellar interior Brooklyn defense–put the Raptors up two. Andray Blatche answered with a nifty layup of his own, which he made after his first attempt was stuffed soundly by Amir Johnson at the rim. On the other end, DeMar DeRozan–who was held to 14 points on 3-of-9 shooting–missed a three late in the shot clock. To respond, Paul Pierce–15 points and 3-of-4 from three in his return from injury–drilled a huge longball to give the lead right back to Brooklyn.
DeRozan then got fouled by Livingston, and hit the resulting free throws to cut the lead to just a single point. Earlier in the year, the Nets might have faded at this point of the game and maybe would commit a big turnover or take a bad shot leading to the opposing team scoring to take a lead. This time, a high-percentage Deron Williams layup attempt was blocked by Johnson but the Raptors never took advantage of their golden opportunity, as Livingston stole the ball right back from Ross, who totally faded away after the game's opening quarter, sealing the win.
Some other observations I had from the game: Kevin Garnett (back) was supposed to play tonight, but never ended up suiting up or entering action. Looks like Kidd is saving him for Wednesday's tilt in Miami against the Heat. Andrei Kirilenko (ankle) also didn't play, and the Nets' paint defense missed him, as Toronto scorched Brooklyn for 46 paint points and won the rebounding battle by seven…..Thanks to multiple threes from Deron, Joe and Pierce, Brooklyn was 11-for-20 from beyond the arc, the 2nd game in a row the Nets were highly effective from three after the debacle on Friday in Boston. Meanwhile, Toronto was just 6-for-23 from three, demonstrating the extreme importance three-point shooting holds in today's NBA……The Nets and Raptors have split their four-game season series, with each team winning once in the other's arena and once at home.
Two games above .500, the Nets head to Florida to take on the defending champion Miami Heat, who won tonight against the Wizards to snap a losing skid.