It was much closer than the Brooklyn Nets wanted, but they were still able to hang on and take game 3 from the Toronto Raptors, 102-98 Friday night. The Nets led by 15 points late in the fourth quarter before having a total meltdown where they did not hit shots, did not hit free throws, and gave up terrible fouls to Toronto. The Raptors got as close as within 1-point of Brooklyn with under a minutes to go. The Nets were led by Joe Johnson, who scored 29 points. DeMar DeRozan scored 30 for Toronto.
The final few minutes of this game were painful to watch, but I think a veteran team like this will be able to put this collapse behind them and move on, because there is still a lot of work left to be done in this series. The Raptors are proving to be a very tough opponent who does not go away, and even though the Nets should win this series and are the better team on paper, they still have a long way to go.
Player grades and notes:
Paul Pierce: B+
Pierce looked like he was going to have another bad game in the first quarter as he got off to a slow start, but he turned things around and finished with 18 points, including making all 7 of his free throws. It is still a little bit concerning how he sometimes disappears for stretches of the game.
Kevin Garnett: B-
The one thing Garnett deserves credit for was lighting a fire under the Nets. Because of him, the Nets had a nice run at the end of the second quarter, their first real flow of the game and maybe the series. But KG still played just 16 minutes and fouled out of the game. He has never had this many fouls called on him in his career and it seems like he’s been in foul trouble every game of the series.
Joe Johnson: A
Joe Johnson had a heck of a game tonight. He finished with 29 points on 11-17 from the field and 4-4 from the foul line, including the most important free throws of the game. He made the smart plays throughout the night and the Nets were always able to go to him when they needed him.
Deron Williams: B+
This is a hard grade to give, because Deron was great for the first 3.5 quarters tonight. First, I’ll talk about that. He was very aggressive, looking for both his shot and attacking the paint. He was able to draw fouls and he also played the entire 3rd quarter when Shaun Livingston was in foul trouble. But you can’t avoid the last couple of minutes. For a point guard who is an 85% free throw shooter to go just 1-4 from the line in crunch time is unacceptable. This has been an issue since he came to the Nets. He is not good in the clutch.
Andray Blatche: A
The Nets got a surprisingly great game from Blatche tonight. He was very serviceable on defense, even taking a charge, and he was great on offense, drawing a ton of fouls and going a perfect 8-8 from the foul line. Jason Kidd took him out in favor of Garnett with 3 minutes remaining. Maybe he should have left Blatche in.
Game 4 of the series will be on Sunday night in Brooklyn where the Nets will try to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. FRWD will have full coverage of the game.