And despite an unfortunate habit of giving Brooklyn a seemingly endless amount of opportunities to break the contest wide open, the Raptors were still somehow within striking distance through the first two quarters. At the conclusion of a turnover-plagued first half, backup point guard Greivis Vasquez embodied the attitude required to dispose of his opponent and shared a comment that the rest of the team needed to hear with TSN sideline reporter Rod Black:
”We need to hate these guys right now.”
While it’s doubtful that his comment was heard in time to make a difference, the look on the face of Vasquez and every other Raptor was enough to say it all. They needed this win, and were going to deliver a victory to the relentlessly supportive home crowd regardless of the cost.
Vasquez, Patrick Patterson and Landry Fields all contributed much more than anything that the box score could have indicated on both ends of the floor. They were key for the Raptors, who out-rebounded their rivals and kept the mighty Nets under 40 percent shooting from the field in the first half.
And with less than three minutes remaining, there the Raptors were, up 87-85 in front of an ecstatic home crowd that equalled the best that the franchise has seen during its 19-year history, playing like Atlantic Division champs to a chorus of cheers raining down from the farthest reaches of the Air Canada Center.
Following a disappointing playoff debut, DeMar DeRozan was simply brilliant for Toronto, scoring 17 of his 30 points in the final frame on a night in which he was forced to go to war with a variety of Brooklyn defenders and leading the Raptors to their first postseason victory since he was a senior in high school.
Second-year standout Jonas Valanciunas added another strong outing to his recent run of success with 15 points and 14 rebounds, and Amir Johnson‘s presence was irreplaceable in the low post after the veteran struggled in Game 1.
Yes, the 20 turnovers are highly problematic, Terrence Ross may need to take a seat in order to break free of his offensive struggles, and Dwane Casey‘s crew needs to avoid another effort filled with self-inflicted errors. But the Raptors got a win that they desperately needed, their first of the postseason in six years, and are now headed to Brooklyn with the series tied at a game each.
In the playoffs, that’s all that matters.