ESCAPISM: Nets 102, Raptors 98 (PLAYOFF GAME GRADES)

Posted on: April 25th, 2014 by Devin Kharpertian Comments


The Brooklyn Nets CENTER

It's really cool when they nearly let a 15-point lead crumble to dust in three minutes, right?

Defensively, the Nets did a solid job containing DeMar DeRozan after a hot start, and Jonas Valanciunas did considerably less damage with five fouls. Kyle Lowry only got hot late, despite an injury in the first quarter. Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce hit clutch free throws. What was a solid "A" effort in the first 44 minutes was nearly lost completely.

The Nets get out of this one with a win, in spite of their play in crunch time. That's not something you say about them often.

Deron Williams POINT GUARD

An otherwise great night sullied by an awful finish: on the verge of a Nets collapse, Kyle Lowry somehow got into the lane on Williams, and Williams missed three free throws in the final 47 seconds.

He's still got that killer crossover, even if it feels like he might not bring it out night in and night out, and took advantage of an injured Kyle Lowry. Two big threes kicked off the game and he continued attacking throughout. Drew a lot of contact inside, most notably on one play where he tried to throw down a dunk over Jonas Valanciunas that he probably shouldn't have.

Distributed well, even passing up semi-open shots to get teammates (most notably Brooklyn's Backcourt mate Joe Johnson), and until the team's near-collapse, played an excellent game.

Shaun Livingston POINT GUARD

Some foul trouble and I expected him to get more looks in the post, missed one late crucial free throw, and threw away a terrible pass that contributed to the collapse. Not his best glue guy night.

Joe Johnson SHOOTING GUARD

Joe Cool came through again, burying two free throws with four seconds left to seal the win.

Got rolling in the third quarter with some pretty shots -- an open left corner three-pointer, another open right wing three-pointer, and then a drive into the lane where he met all the defense of an open door. There were moments when the Nets needed someone to create a shot late in the clock, and Johnson delivered.

Paul Pierce POWER FORWARD

There are moments where he gets open shots and rims them out, and you wonder if it's one of the last shots he'll ever rim out in the playoffs. And then he drives to the basket and slams a dunk past Tyler Hansbrough, or flips up another ridiculous layup and-one, or hits big jumpers to close quarters, or hits two free throws when the Nets have seemingly forgotten how to make that shot, and you say, "Oh, yeah, that's why he's here."

Kevin Garnett CENTER

Keyed this team's early offense with his passing game, including a picture-perfect feed inside from one block to the next to Joe Johnson for a layup. But in a weird, weird twist, the team fell apart defensively when he entered the game for Andray Blatche.

Kind of glad he got into foul trouble in such a short time, because it was clear he wasn't afraid to put his body on the line when guys attacked the basket. And when he dove on the floor, it was one of those moments that reminded you why they brought KG here in the first place.

Andray Blatche POWER FORWARD

This is weird, but I swear it's true: Blatche played some of his best defense ever in the second half. Picked a steal, drew a charge, filled lanes defensively, and hedged on pick-and-rolls like he'd never done before. It was like he became a new player after he banged knees with DeMar DeRozan in the first half. Played so well he kept Kevin Garnett resting until under 3:30 left in the fourth quarter, when the Nets nearly collapsed. I don't get it either. Andray Blatche is still weird. My brain has lost all sense of meaning.

Andrei Kirilenko SMALL FORWARD

It is strange that he's not getting in earlier, considering just how disruptive he can be defensively. But he's bringing it when called upon -- defending DeMar DeRozan and forcing turnovers.

Marcus Thornton SHOOTING GUARD

After airballing an open three-point attempt that shot out of his hands like a missile, Thornton cut into the lane and flipped in an and-one layup in between two defenders. If Andray Blatche was 6'4", he'd be Marcus Thornton.