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Game 1. Here’s what happened.
Game Grades: Read ’em here.
After his fourth consecutive shot in crunch time fell through, putting the Nets up seven with 51.5 seconds left, Nets forward Paul Pierce walked back towards the bench, pounding his chest.
“That’s why I’m here!” Pierce said to his teammates. “This is why I’m here!”
In his 137th career playoff game, more than any other player in this Nets-Raptors series, Pierce didn’t score once between the beginning of the second quarter and three minutes left in the game. But a quick three-pointer, a left-handed layup after a few extra steps, and two big jumpers brought the Nets from up three to up seven, sealing the first game of the Nets-Raptors series for Brooklyn with a 94-87 victory.
With the win, the Nets steal home-court from the Raptors in the series, which could prove crucial: the Nets were 28-13 at home this season and went on a 15-game home winning streak from February 3rd to April 4th. They were led by Deron Williams’s 24 points, including 18 in the first half, and Joe Johnson added 22 points, eight rebounds, and four assists. But it was Pierce who put the finishing touches on this game, putting away the Raptors for good.
“He’s been doing it for years,” Dwane Casey said after the game about Pierce, later adding: “He’s a Hall of Famer for a reason.”
“I love those moments,” Pierce said after the game. “I was probably the third option on there, but they took away the first and second option.”
Pierce put an exclamation point on a game rife with controversy, which included a profane general manager, fondue- and dinosaur-based trash talk, and a stopwatch for a shot clock.
Yes, a stopwatch: Midway through the third quarter, the shot clocks suddenly turned off. All of them. That’s happened before — it even happened to the Nets earlier this season — but then they didn’t turn back on. Any of them.
The ensuing mishap caused a ten-minute delay before the referees, unbelievably, decided to continue the game without a functioning shot clock, relying on the Raptors PA announcer to shout the shot clock over the public address and keep track with a stopwatch, counting down the shot clock and yelling “HORN!” in lieu of the actual horn.
The first game of the NBA Playoffs, the biggest stage for the league, came down to a guy on the sideline holding a stopwatch and a second guy keeping a constant eye on it and the action. There’s something incredible about this stage, featuring many men making millions of dollars, devolving into the equivalent of a middle-school game. The announcer, as the shot clock wound down, even said the word “HORN” as a replacement for the actual horn.
“I don’t remember if I’ve ever played without a shot clock,” Pierce said, adding a little snark: “Since I’m a dinosaur, it’s been so long.”
Dinos: Pierce was alluding to a Toronto Sun cover page this morning that called Pierce and Kevin Garnett “dinosaurs,” one he hadn’t seen but was told about in the postgame press conference:
“Motivation,” Garnett said after the game about the cover. “I’ve read this book before.”
As Garnett & Pierce walked into the arena with cameras rolling, Garnett turned to Pierce and said, "How many times have we done this shit?"
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) April 19, 2014
More Motivation: The win came after Toronto Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri screamed “F— BROOKLYN!” at a fan rally outside the Air Canada Centre. (Watch here.)
We Talkin’ Bout Turnovers: Before this series, I said in the first part of The Glue Guys two-part Nets playoff podcast that I would be worried if the Nets couldn’t force turnovers against the Raptors, who ranked 11th in the NBA in limiting turnovers, in Game 1. Turnovers are, quite literally, the best thing a defense can do: you want to limit shots as much as possible.
Sure enough, the Nets forced the Raptors into 19 turnovers, some of them of the sloppy “playoff jitters” variety, which led to a 14-5 advantage for the Nets in points off turnovers. Over 20 percent of Raptors possessions ended with them losing the ball. That’s one out of every five possessions.
Despite a relatively even showing on the offensive glass, the Nets put up nine more field goal attempts and two more free throw attempts in the win. That’s a lot of extra chances to put up points in a playoff game, and it’s a big part of why the Nets won despite shooting just 4-24 from three-point range.
First-half flow: It was a back-and forth start that featured sloppiness on both sides. Joe Johnson lost his dribble. So did Jonas Valanciunas. DeMar DeRozan played like he’d never been in the playoffs, which was true. The only thing that seemed in tune was the crowd, a raucous 19,800-seat sellout replete with white jerseys and “KG SUCKS!” chants.
But a quick 15-2 run set the Nets apart early, behind a red-hot start from Deron Williams, who dropped 11 points in the first quarter and 18 in the first half. Williams ended the game with 20 shot attempts, one below his season high.
The game got chippier in the second and the Raptors mounted a slow comeback, mostly by getting to the free throw line. Deron Williams got an inadvertent elbow to the face, Kevin Garnett was called for a preliminary technical, and a total of 15 fouls were called in the second as the game slowed, not including two technicals on the Nets, the second this Andray Blatche shove on Kyle Lowry.
Pierce’s headband: Paul Pierce, in typical trash-talk fashion, fired his headband into the Toronto Raptors crowd. Raptors fans, upset with their loss, fired it back at him — twice — before a third fan finally kept it.
“Third time’s the charm,” Pierce said with a smile.
Kirilenko’s DNP-CD: Andrei Kirilenko did not play, to which Kidd said “I can’t play them all.” That didn’t stop his wife from Instagramming her confusion, and ire, at Jason Kidd. Read more here.
Drake looks confused:
Moving forward: The Nets have to be concerned about their bench production: they shot 8-23 as a unit and 0-12 from deep, including more than one bad airball. It was their poor production that kept this game close in the second and fourth quarter, and had Kidd not brought the Nets starters back in with the game tied and 6:25 left, the Nets might not have pulled this one out.
Next up: Game 2 is Tuesday night in Toronto. Tip-off at 7:30 P.M. EST.