Drake and Masai Ujiri, two reasons to #LoveToronto. (AP)
1) First and foremost: #LoveToronto. The on-court mess only seemed secondary to the off-court silliness, led by Toronto Raptors GM proclaiming "F--- BROOKLYN!" To hordes of screaming Raptors fans before the game. If you haven't seen the video, here's proof.
The remarks led to a later sorry-not-sorry apology from Ujiri, and an official statement from Brooklyn Borough president Eric Adams that reminded us to "spread love, it's the Brooklyn way."
I agree. So how about in response, we spread love: they say #F---Brooklyn? We say #LoveToronto. Because, Love Toronto. Toronto can Love right off.
Brooklyn won Game 1. #LoveToronto.
2) The Nets forced turnovers. The Raptors out-rebounded the Nets 45-37, mostly thanks to Jonas Valanciunas's playoff franchise record 18 rebounds in 35 minutes. That's a battle the Nets have punted for all of 2014, and that won't change now: if the Nets want to win this series against the Raptors, they've got to force turnovers like they've done at a league-best rate since January 1st.
If the first game is any indication, it's good news. The Raptors and Nets played a 93-possession game, and 19 of Toronto's possessions ended with a turnover, right around Brooklyn's starters average in 2014. Some of Toronto's turnovers were just born out of pure Raptors sloppiness; Amir Johnson dribbled the ball away in Reggie Evans-like fashion the first time he touched the ball, Terrence Ross threw a pass to an imaginary teammate in the first row, and Jonas Valanciunas had an unforced turnover or two. But the "active hands" mantra was on full display, slapping away errant passes and loose dribbles easily.
The Raptors worst turnover came with a little over three minutes left and the Nets up three: Kyle Lowry dribbled around a bit, kicked the ball to Amir Johnson, Johnson couldn't find anyone, and gave it back to Lowry, who airballed a three-pointer for a shot clock/PA Announcer Yelling "Horn" violation.
That's the game in a nutshell: the Raptors looked tight, but the Nets also manned up very well to prevent Toronto from moving crisply. The ball doesn't even get inside the three-point line!
The Raptors can tighten up some of their mistakes, but the Nets should be encouraged by Toronto's game-long discomfort.
3) Holy three-point shooting. The Nets shot better from the field, picked up nine more field goal attempts, two more free throw attempts, and still needed some Paul Pierce heroics down the stretch to close out. That's because after Deron Williams hit a three-pointer with 2:59 left in the first quarter, the Nets missed nineteen straight threes until Paul Pierce buried the team's final three-point attempt of the game with 2:58 left in the fourth quarter.
The Nets, who have shot an average of 25.7 three-pointers per game in the new year at a 36.8 percent clip, hit just 4 of 24 threes for the game. Their bench combined to shoot 0-12 from three-point range. That's an anomaly, and likely won't happen again, but a wide-open Mirza Teletovic shooting an airball in his first real playoff minutes is not the best sign.