You would think a top seed being down 1-2 in a playoff series would be reason for panic.
Not when that top seed is the Toronto Raptors.
In Game 1 it was expected Brooklyn’s experience would set the tone for the series. That is exactly what happened when nerves and excitement got the best of Toronto as Brooklyn raced out to a 25-13 lead to start the game. Toronto regrouped to make it a close game until Paul Pierce put the Nets on his back late in the fourth quarter.
Toronto made some key adjustments in Game 2 to even up the series.
The Raptors squandered a great chance to take the lead in this series in Game 3, but with Game 4 looming this weekend, it’s easy to see how Toronto can even the series and make it a best of three series with two of those games being played in Toronto.
One of the main things that will help Toronto out is that Brooklyn’s experienced roster is old. Having three days between each game so far in this series has allowed Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Deron Williams to rest their bodies.
With a quick turnaround to Game 4 on Sunday you can expect to see Garnett play even less minutes than he has so far in this series. Garnett has yet to play more than 20 minutes in any game so far in this series and it’s unlikely he’ll play more than 20 minutes in Game 4.
Pierce is a player who has hit big shots in his career – and did it again in Game 1 – but over the course of this season, he is a player only averaging 7.6 minutes in fourth quarters while shooting 36.4% from the field.
It’s also worth noting Pierce shoots 49% from the field in wins while only 40% from the field in losses. If he doesn’t get going early in games he struggles to get it going late in games.
Williams was big in Game 1 (22 points) and Game 3 (24 points), but in the month of April he was only averaging 12.0 points per game while shooting a putrid 39% from the field before the playoffs started. Williams was a player struggling with his shot and confidence so if Kyle Lowry can get physical while guarding him it’s likely he’ll be able to get into his head as well.
“We’ve got to do a better job of making sure we get the help there quicker,” Dwane Casey admitted after Game 3. “If we do get it there, we’re in pretty good shape in those situations. We have to make sure we recognize where they are on the floor, they’re two great one-on-one players and there’s no one on our team who’s going to guard them by themselves, so we’ve to got make sure we get help there.”
Toronto’s inexperience has shown in them playing a lot of hero ball (19.7 assists on 32.0 made field goals) and forcing bad passes (19.7 turnovers so far in this series). If the Raptors can play with more composure and patience on the offensive end that will have a huge impact on this series.
Despite falling behind 1-2 in this series, if they can make a few key adjustments on Brooklyn’s big three of Pierce, Garnett and Williams while taking better care of the ball, it’s easy to see this series being tied at two games a piece heading back to Toronto.
If that happens, the Raptors will have the Nets exactly where they want them.