Usually the first round of the NBA Playoffs sucks. This year...not so much. Wednesday night both the Raptors and Nets kept that trend going with yet another game that came down to the waning seconds. The victor was the NBA's last remaining Canadian hope, who finds themselves a win away from their first playoff series win since 2001.
To get to their current 3-2 lead they had to withstand a bullcharge from a Brooklyn team intent on punching Toronto in the gut. The Raptors held a 26-point lead in the second half, and then blew it. We think it's safe to say that losing a game in that fashion would be an overwhelming letdown to overcome, and would've pretty much guaranteed a second round entrance for the Nets. But when the going got tough the Raps prevailed, led by Kyle Lowry who scored 36 tonight behind 6-9 from the 3 pt. line. His co-star was DeMar DeRozan who pitched in 23.
As for Brooklyn, they fought valiantly, showing that it won't be easy to bounce their veteran presence over the coming days. Down 22 entering the 4th quarter, the Nets outscored Toronto 44-24, but couldn't quite come out on top, despite 30 points from Joe Johnson.
It wasn't without a slim chance at the end for the Nets. You see, another theme has been fairly dumb play down the stretch this postseason. Tonight was no exception. Trailing by two, with mere seconds left, the Nets missed a free throw, grabbed the rebound and in a desperate attempt Andray Blatche chucked the ball into the backcourt. At that moment point guard Deron Williams hucked up a last-second shot beyond half court that would've sealed the game in the worst way possible for the home crowd. As the ball was coming down Jonas Valanciunas inexplicably hit the ball at the rim as it was descending, which looked like a potential game-losing goal tend (maybe, that would've been the worst way to lose), but instead it was determined (after a review) that Blatche's pass wasn't deflected. The result? A back court violation.
And a Raptors 'W'.