The Brooklyn Nets topped the Toronto Raptors on Saturday afternoon to kick off the 2014 NBA Playoffs, 94-87. The Nets were aided by a throwback crunch-time performance by Paul Pierce, who scored nine-straight points for Brooklyn starting at the 2:57 mark of the fourth quarter.
A pair of jumpers from The Truth sealed the victory for Jason Kidd’s club with around one minute left. The Nets were led by Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, both of whom scored 24 points.
Pierce and Kevin Garnett struggled for most of the game, with Garnett failing to score in the first half of a playoff game for the first time of his career. However, Garnett made his first field goal (a fade away in the lane) right before Pierce went on his nine-point tear. Before that point, they were a combined 2-of-13 from the field.
Toronto looked shaky in its first playoff series since the Chris Bosh era, turning the ball over 17 times. DeMar DeRozan struggled mightily in his postseason debut, shooting just 3-of-13 from the field.
The game had an overall wacky feel to it, with the shot clocks going out in the third quarter (leading to the PA announcer calling out the last five seconds of the shot clock), the Nets missing 18-consecutive three-point shots and Toronto turning the ball over nearly as often as it made a shot for the first 40 minutes, but the opening game of the series went as planned for the Nets.
Billy King knew what he was getting when he mortgaged Brooklyn’s future on a pair of aging ex-superstars in Garnett and Pierce. He knew that the Nets already had a solid core of D-Will, Joe Cool and Brook Lopez (who is out for the season … again) and he knew that the acquisition of the two former members of the Boston Celtics would help him bring a few more spare parts to Brooklyn in free agency (namely Andrei Kirilenko and Alan Anderson).
King also knew (along with the rest of us) that Garnett and Pierce weren’t going to be playing 82 games during the regular season. The plan was simple: Make the playoffs and have both guys healthy going into April’s festivities. The Nets accomplished both of those goals, and now Brooklyn’s ready for a big-time payoff on its’ gamble.
Pierce and Garnett are once again on a journey for a title and although the Nets are long shots to make it out of the second round, the intangibles and leadership that the two of them provide are invaluable; and I guess it doesn’t hurt that they can take over a game in the closing minutes either.
On the flip side, Toronto is in serious trouble after dropping Game 1 on its home floor. The Atlantic Division champs were seen by many as the underdog going into the series (including myself) and it’s hard to imagine Toronto recovering to win the series after giving up home court.
On the other hand, there’s a silver lining for Dwane Casey’s crew. With the turnover woes being as bad as they were and with DeRozan playing so poorly, Toronto showed some serious grit keeping the game competitive. Yes, the Raptors were heavily aided by Brooklyn’s inability to knock down long-range shots, but that’ll likely be turned into a positive by Casey (regarding his team’s ability to closeout on shooters).
Game 2 will be played in Toronto on Tuesday and I expect the young Raptors to come out of the gates with less jitters and more fire than they did Saturday afternoon. That being said, when crunch time rolls around, the odds are stacked in Brooklyn’s favor, as experience reigns supreme in the closing minutes of playoff games; something that The Truth proved once again on Saturday.