With the series in danger of slipping out of control, it was now a war of attrition for both squads. One just had to witness Kyle Lowry and his Game 3 knee injury to realize what was at stake at the Barclays Center on Sunday night — warrior-type leadership at its finest.
The Raps exploded out of the gate like they were on a mission. The ball movement they have always been known for was rekindled to the utmost degree. Falling back on isolations was not going to accomplish anything. To that doubter in the basketball world who still doesn’t believe in DeMar DeRozan‘s All-Star viability: enjoy his now-cemented superstar status.
The limited turnovers committed by Toronto in the first half told a telling tale, and was the reason why this series sat in Brooklyn’s favor. Over the course of the first three games, the 57 giveaways presented by the Raptors made up for a whopping 50 points allocated to Brooklyn’s boxscores.
There is a reason these two squads are so evenly matched, however. Coming into this battle, both teams have won 13 quarters a piece with two ties, and a grand total of five points separating the respective squads in favor of the Raptors. Toronto held a 17-point first-half advantage, but the inevitable Brooklyn comeback was cooking all along.
This was a full-throttle display by two hungry franchises, the kind of action that will make Toronto a regular going forward on TNT on ESPN broadcasts. The fourth-quarter madness even had my neighbour banging on his walls screaming at yet another comical whistle by the refs. The defensive flaws exposed in Game 3 were met head-on by Toronto, and a nod to head coach Dwane Casey is definitely in order. Brooklyn was getting used to open looks, but when you draw two offensive charges late in the game with the series essentially on the line, you know the moment is not bigger than the players on the floor.
Toronto was on the ropes and on the road in a hostile environment; this team could have crumbled. Instead, the Raptors head back home with the series tied and home-court advantage in their back pockets. A new breed of Raptors basketball was already born in the regular season, but this franchise-defining moment has truly put them on the map.