Nets lead the series 2-1; Won 102-98
Just finished watching the game on TSN GO. This time it was the Raptors coming out strong with Brooklyn hanging on for the win. Again, this one came down to the last seconds and some questionable calls to seal it for BK. And a few missed freebies kinda hurt too when e game is so close. Let's get into it.
X-Factors from Game 3:
1. The Crowd: I'm sorry, but the 3-4000 Raptors fans alone were collectively louder than the 18000 at the Barclays Centre. So much for them being upset for #WhatMasaiSaid... A couple of USA chants were amusing tho...
2. Bench Play: With foul troubles mounting (I'll address that in a bit), it was Casey who was forced to go deep into his bench and found no real production outside of the Patman, Patrick Patterson. Fortunately for Toronto, Brooklyn's bench wasn't as good offensively, but defensive, they were solid. 31 points for Toronto to Brooklyn's 26.
3. Landry Fields: Well, it was fun while it lasted. Fields played a total of 8 minutes and couldn't slow Joe Johnson down, or make an easy basket. So guess who made a return to the rotation? John Salmons! who really didn't do much of anything either in 12 minutes... SMH! Which sparks a whole new issue with...
4. Ross: Terrence Ross has only made 3 FGs in 3 games... That's NOT good! And he's getting terrorized on defense. That's even worse! A change MUST happen or Toronto will lose this series. He should come off the bench in game 4, giving him a better vantage point to see where he can impact the game better, without having fouls or missed shots hindering him. It will do him some good.
1. Rebounds vs Turnovers: Toronto still dominated the rebounding department, but Brooklyn made more of an effort in game 3. As for pastries, Raptors are still high in the turnover department with 17 to Brooklyn's 11. However, I'm going be a bit more lenient, as most of the turnovers are ones that should be called fouls on the Nets (more to come on that).
15 16: The Raptors have now lost 13 straight road playoff games, and for them to have a chance, they MUST win game 4! Period! They lose game 4, they lose the series, cause as much as I have faith in my young team's abilities, I don't think they can win 3 straight games facing elimination.
3. Refs: I must go against what I said in my last post — how can a team play through blatant bad calls? Particularly, 2nd quarter, 4:44: JV gets called for a loose ball foul when KG clearly pushed him into Pierce, with Paul going to the line for 2 freebies. Or 2nd quarter, 3:18, DeRozan gets hit by D. Will (should've been a clear path foul to begin with), ref initially call it a Flagrant 1 foul (which it should have been), call is downgraded to a personal foul after review. Or 2nd quarter, 1:09, after a hand check foul committed by Lowry, D. Will gets into Lowry's face and gives him a bump, no technical foul is called. However, at the end of the game (4th quarter, 47.3 seconds), Vasquez get called for a quick foul (right call) and a quicker technical foul (bad call). Not to mention kickball call in the 2nd quarter and KGs delay of game which wasn't called. Those were just some of the obvious ones I saw, not to mention a plethora of horrible makeup calls. There is no way any team can outplay such horrid officiating. I feel for the Raptors, but they MUST find a way to outplay both the Nets and the refs.
It's official: these two teams do NOT like each other. Brooklyn is trying to punk off Toronto's young guns; Toronto is NOT standing for it, willing to get into Brooklyn's face. Pride and Respect vs Experience and Savvy. It's not gonna be pretty.
Raptors - Lowry, DeRozan, Ross, Johnson, JV
Nets - Williams, Livingston, Johnson, Pierce, KG
Game 4 X-Factors:
1. Guard Play (D. Will/Joe Johnson vs DeRozan/Lowry): Interestingly enough, Pierce and KG haven't really done much in this series for BK (except for Game 1 for Pierce). It's been Williams and Johnson. As they go, the Nets go. When they both net 20+, the Nets have won. On the flip side, the Raptors have had success when both Lowry and DeRozan are on AT THE SAME TIME! Nets have done a good job on containing Lowry and forcing DeRozan to do it himself.
2. JV: Jonas Valanciunas has been the BEST player in this series. Period. 42 points, 42 rebounds in 3 games. Give him the ball and just get out of the way. He needs to stay out of foul trouble for the Raptors to win. Although he's been railroaded with fouls all season.
3. Bench Play: Bench play for both teams have been more or less even. Raptors reserves MUST provide positional relief at key moments down the stretch, which didn't happen last game.
4. Ross: As mentioned earlier, Terrence Ross has struggled, which is putting it mildly. I think he SHOULD be replaced in the starting lineup (Fields/Salmons) which would allow Ross to settle in better.
5. Assists vs Turnovers: Give the Nets credit. They have forced Toronto into more turnovers than assists this series. Regular season, the opposite was true. Raptors need to find away to avoid getting trapped into playing iso-ball and get back to what has worked all season: sharing the rock. As far as turnovers, they can't expect the refs to bail them out on calls which should be fouls on the Nets, but end up being turnovers. 57 in 3 games isn't going to cut it. Protect the rock!
6. Refs: the question is will the whistle be fair? That has been the issue. Raptors won't complain about it, but it's starting to wear them down.
7. 3 Ball: If Toronto starts getting their 3-point game going, they're gonna be scary.
Things to watch for:
1. Tipping Point?: This series has been uber physical to say the least. Will this be the game where one of the Raptors (maybe Lowry, Vasquez, JV or DeRozan) blow up?
2. 2-16: 13 straight road loss, with the possibility of going back to Toronto down 3 games, the Raptors MUST win game 4. It has to happen.
3. Angry Pitbull: Kyle Lowry is now play playing hurt, and angry. He's been doing that all season, and the Raptors have been better for it. Can Lowry go into Pitbull mode again?
Aside from a few botched freebies and bad calls, I was very close to my prediction last time. Expect another barn burner. It's gonna come down to wire again.
Raptors will win by 3!