So Close And So Far: Raptors 115, Nets 113 (GAME GRADES)


The Brooklyn Nets CENTER

I don’t really know what to say about this. I don’t know what there is to say about this. Well, okay, there’s this: it was bad. It was so bad for three quarters that Raptors fans mockingly sing-songed a “BROOK-LYNNN” chant. It was so bad that the best thing the Nets tweeted about this game was the brutal honesty that Toronto’s fans went harder than Brooklyn’s do.

And then Joe Johnson, Joe Jesus, Joe Cool, Joe Marcus Goddamn Johnson, nearly brought the Nets all the way out from a 26-point deficit, a 22-point fourth-quarter deficit, along with a suddenly studded lineup including Deron Williams, Alan Anderson, Mirza Teletovic, and Andray Blatche.

Seriously, what the hell am I supposed to say? That was single-handedly the most incredible comeback I’ve ever seen in person. We’re talking a complete fourth-quarter takeover. We’re talking three potential four-point plays in the final 12 minutes, the last when the game actually seemed out of reach. We’re talking Joe Jesus to Dray Live to A Squared. We’re talking what could have been the greatest comeback in NBA playoff history with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett on the bench.

This game wasn’t a game. It was an experience. It was a cinematic masterpiece at the height of first-round playoff tension. It’s a shame that it ended in a loss, because that might be it for the Nets.

Deron Williams POINT GUARD

Hurt his ankle early in the game stepping on Joe Johnson’s foot at an inopportune time, shook it off just in time to get torched by Kyle Lowry through the first three quarters, before running the game like an elite point guard in the fourth, darting around screens and setting up teammates for three-pointers and dunks alike. Other than one really bad play — getting crossed by Lowry en route to a Lowry layup — Williams played an opposite game to what we’re accustomed to seeing in the fourth quarter from him in these playoffs. If only he’d brought that type of creative ability in the first three quarters.

Shaun Livingston POINT GUARD

Terrence Ross blocked his jumper and I saw a unicorn. Livingston recovered and buried his jumper to make it go away. Was one of the few Nets to show up in the first half, but he seems to have more problems shooting from two feet than 12.

Joe Johnson SHOOTING GUARD

Joe, man. Joe. Joe Johnson is one of the most polarizing players in the NBA. Yes, he makes too much money. Yes, he sometimes seems to fade in and out of involvement. But when Joe Johnson goes off, he’ll do it in so many ways that you have no idea what’s happening. You blinked and Joe Johnson had 30 points. It was that kind of game for him, where he burned

Paul Pierce POWER FORWARD

The scuttlebutt was that the Nets should have brought him back in. But I see why Kidd left him out. You go with the guys that brought you there. Pierce was on the bench for the entire comeback.

Kevin Garnett CENTER

Looked like a 37-year-old trying to keep up with a 21-year-old.

Andray Blatche POWER FORWARD

Andray Blatche nearly contributed to the greatest fourth-quarter comeback in playoff history, and then made the most boneheaded offensive play he’s ever made, throwing a ball backcourt when he didn’t have to and the team down two on the last play. I don’t think this Blatche can ever be out-Blatched.

Alan Anderson SHOOTING GUARD

Four-point play. I don’t know. What? What the hell happened tonight? Are we all on drugs?

Mirza Teletovic POWER FORWARD

When the game was out of reach to start the fourth quarter, Teletovic was the only one who played like he gave a damn, hitting a three-pointer and flipping in a fast-break layup. Kudos for starting the waterfall.