In this entertaining series between the Toronto Raptors and Brooklyn Nets it would be fitting if there was a seventh game. I can envision the chaotic drama now: 10 seconds left on the clock, a loose ball emerges, while Amir Johnson and Kevin Garnett both sprawl to the floor in an all-out effort to gain that last possession (mixed with a couple flying elbows of course).
NBA fans have been treated to every element of playoff basketball their appetite could crave. From the clutch heroism of Paul Pierce and DeMar DeRozan (even though Pierce’s “DNA” failed to live up its self-proclaimed kingdom in Game 2), the gritty and grimy physical play inside the paint (transformed into a street-fight on Friday night), to the chess-match coaching battle of Dwane Casey and Jason Kidd. (The insertion of Landry Fields for defensive purposes has been a Toronto godsend).
The added bonuses this Eastern Conference brawl has brought with it deserve some honorable mentions. Say what you will about Masai Ujiri‘s expletive thoughts on the city of Brooklyn; at the very least, it was a non-cliche moment in professional sports. Some might describe it as a refreshing rarity and yours truly seconds that notion. I would be remiss if Deron Williams slid under the radar; the D-Will of old may be awakening, but his display of instructional videos on the art of flopping will forever go down in the Association’s folklore; an official invitation to Michael Pineda‘s captain-obvious party has been sent.
Brooklyn (however over-the-top its antics can be) knows how to get inside an opponents head; with 271 playoff games between Garnett and Pierce, tricks of the trade become second-nature. However, give the Raps credit in weathering the Nets second-quarter swarm, an onslaught that actually recorded an appearance by the Nets’ crowd. Stuck in traffic? Too many New York Knicks fans?
On full display Friday was not only the costly turnovers (add another 17 to a disturbing grand total of 57 through three games), but the continued defensive issues that have plagued the Raptors throughout. This is not the regular season’s eighth-ranked barrier of OPPG (Opponents’ Points Per Game), not the stingy fifth-ranked OPFG%/PG (Opponents’ Field Goal Percentage Per Game). Instead, screen-recovery remains too slow, and help-outs persist to exist in a state of confusion. How many times can Joe Johnson‘s floaters in the lane go uncontested?
The Nets’ ball-movement was paced with a championship rhythm (a page out of the Raptors’ regular season). There is no denying the Raptors’ now have to regroup and attempt to reinvent their own brand. With just over five minutes remaining Brooklyn sat comfortably ahead by 15. This just goes to show you why this series has a Game-Seven brewing as an epic comeback was just two Patrick Patterson free-throws away from coming to fruition.
The basketball gods will see this matchup to the very end; someone has to save the hoops world from this ref-crew ineptitude.