The Nets lost a close battle in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference playoffs, dropping a 100-95 loss to the Toronto Raptors in Toronto and tying the series at one game apiece.

But in a five-point road loss, it couldn't all be bad, and there was one constant good sign throughout: the Nets forced turnover after turnover, totaling 21 Raptors turnovers on 93 possessions.

That's two more turnovers than they forced in Game 1 in the same amount of possessions, but many of Toronto's turnovers were unforced errors in Game 1: Tuesday night, the Nets got their hands on the ball "low" often, slapping the ball out of Raptors' players hands when they went up for shots and passes, and getting in the passing lane to disrupt Raptors possessions.

That's a testament to Brooklyn's "active hands" mantra in the new year, the mantra that's led to their league-best opposing turnover percentage in 2014.

The 21 turnovers led to 17 points for the Nets, which they'll take, but since many turnovers lead to fast-break opportunities, the Nets will want to improve on that ratio Friday night.

 

Kevin Garnett

Kevin Garnett has played 39 minutes in the first two games. (AP)

Though the points disparity didn't reflect it -- the Nets and Raptors each had 16 second-chance points, an amazing stat considering the overall disparity -- the Brooklyn Nets were thoroughly out-rebounded by the Toronto Raptors in Game 2 of the first round: 52-30 overall, 19-11 on the offensive glass and 30-19 on defense.

Yes, the Nets had as many defensive rebounds as the Raptors had offensive rebounds, and it's a big reason why the Nets lost a close 100-95 battle at Air Canada Centre, knotting the Eastern Conference series up at 1 game apiece heading to Brooklyn for Game 3.

"We've talked about it all season," Deron Williams said after the game of the team's rebounding, according to Brooklyn Nets beat reporter Lenn Robbins. "It's been a plague for us."

Brooklyn has only one real option if they want to close that disparity: lift Kevin Garnett's minutes restriction. Garnett's played a strict 20 minutes in each of the first two games, and when he's on the court, Brooklyn's been the beneficiary. With Garnett off the court, the Raptors have outscored the Nets 114-99 and out-rebounded them 60-39. In his 39 minutes on the court, they've outscored the Raptors 87-73, and though the Raptors still have a rebounding edge, it's not as pronounced -- just 37-28.

We're talking small sample sizes here, as any playoff sample size is. But stylistically this isn't surprising: Garnett would have led the NBA in percentage of defensive rebounds grabbed had he played enough minutes to qualify this season, and he's by far the team's best defensive big man, with non-stop communication and a keen sense of pick-and-roll defense.

The Nets relied on Garnett as their defensive anchor in season, but he was also a major component in their stylistic shift. With Garnett functioning out of the high post, the Nets have five shooters or creators on the floor with their starters in, and Garnett acts as a hand-off passer or side-to-side mid-point. It's why Garnett ranked third on the team in passes per game, despite playing just 20.5 minutes per game.

But it's possible that at 37, Garnett just can't push his body beyond 20 minutes per game, even in the playoffs, and maintain his optimal play. Then again, Mason Plumlee did allow Jonas Valanciunas to grab one of his 14 rebounds while Valanciunas was sitting on the floor. So maybe there's something to upping Garnett's minutes.

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DeMar DeRozan; Andray Blatche

DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors to a Game 2 win. (AP)

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Here's a brief recap of Tuesday night's festivities.
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The Brooklyn Nets CENTER

Until the last few minutes, the Nets maximized their best asset -- forcing turnovers -- and were dominated by their biggest weakness -- rebounding. They may have set a record for most shots rimmed out in a game, which will happen sometimes. Credit to DeMar DeRozan for showing up big after a rough Game 1. Now it's time to go back to Brooklyn.

Deron Williams POINT GUARD

Came out as aggressive as he did Saturday afternoon, but his shots didn't fall in the first half. One notable layup twirling around Jonas Valanciunas to put in a scoop, but a quiet night otherwise on a bigger stage, including a rough turnover in crunch time.

Shaun Livingston POINT GUARD

Didn't show any fear attacking the paint in his first playoff series since 2006 and his first as a starter, and unlike the rest of the team didn't have any issues hitting free throws.

Joe Johnson SHOOTING GUARD

The Raptors still don't have an answer for him on the wing -- it's either make or miss once he gets into the paint. Johnson carried the Nets through the third quarter with 12 big points in a variety of ways, but airballed a 3 in the fourth quarter and the Nets didn't go to him otherwise.

Paul Pierce POWER FORWARD

2 quick fouls in the first quarter kept him glued to the bench, but played disruptive defense throughout. Didn't hit any shots until crunch time: a step-back and-one jumper that tied the game at 83, and then an and-one layup to cut a 92-87 lead to 92-90 with under a minute left. Pierce had one more chance to give the Nets the lead, but rimmed out two wide-open three-point attempts down the stretch.

Kevin Garnett CENTER

Strong start to this one on both ends, neutralizing Raptors pick-and-rolls with Valanciunas and hitting two nice mid-range jumpers in his first four-minute stint. Rolled well to the rim to get some easy buckets and played solid defense in his limited time. Not an accident that he had the team's best plus-minus.

Andrei Kirilenko SMALL FORWARD

After sitting out the entirety of Game 1, drawing the ire of his wife, Kirilenko got some early playing time in Game 2 and earned his keep with his usual, sneaky style of play. Played some crunch time minutes in lieu of Shain Livingston, hitting the deck on one play to save a defensive rebound. If not that, this is his play of the night: stealing an offensive rebound right out of Terrence Ross's hands and grabbing another offensive rebound on the very next shot.

Mirza Teletovic POWER FORWARD

Rough Game 1 didn't translate over: Teletovic missed his first three shots but then buried his next four, including three three-pointers, briefly leading the Nets in scoring to close the first half. Still can't defend.

Mason Plumlee CENTER

Doesn't look fazed by playoff minutes but Brooklyn's defense fell off a cliff with him in the game.


 

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Up here, Kevin Garnett's called for his second technical of the first-round series against the Toronto Raptors, after an equally questionable one in Game 1.

I'm not one to blame referees for too many mistakes -- it's a quick sport with snap decisions made by imperfect that are scrutinized on slow-motion replay. But that's not at play here: this is a decision made after a play, with Garnett casually walking down court. He doesn't do anything drastic. It doesn't appear that he said enough bad words to warrant a technical (though with Garnett, that's always possible). But Garnett's still slapped with one.

I guess you could argue that he pawed down at Vasquez on the floor, but that's silly to call a technical on. Maybe it was just preventative on the official's part. Your thoughts?

 

Raptors in red, Nets in gray
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YES Network color commentators Donny Marshall & Jim Spanarkel answer three questions on tonight's game against the Toronto Raptors. Spanarkel is on the call with Ian Eagle for Games 2 and 3, while Marshall will be in the studio.

Spanarkel's Take On...... MORE →

 

Paul Pierce; Patrick Paterson

Paul Pierce (AP)

A Hall of Fame performance is rarely the act of an individual.

Paul Pierce’s fourth quarter takeover in Game 1, combined with his declaration of “That’s Why I’m Here!” while running back to the huddle was, though wildly entertaining, no exception.

It wasn’t only Pierce’s veteran guile or his lifetime of difficult shot-making experience at work, but carefully executed Nets offense that cleverly put Pierce into creases in the Raptors defense, freeing him for his 4th quarter burst.
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Rajon Rondo, Andray Blatche

Andray Blatche's struggles nearly lost Game 1. (AP)

The Nets' bench was less than stellar Saturday afternoon, outscored 29-16 by Toronto's second unit and allowed the Raptors to take a one-point lead in the fourth quarter. They shot just 8-23, 0-12 from three-point range, and outside of rookie Mason Plumlee (+13), they had a combined plus-minus of -47. At the center of those issues: struggling center Andray Blatche.
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