Full disclosure: I did a terrible job moderating the game day thread. In my defence, DID YOU WATCH THAT GAME? This series looked to have taken a drastic turn in Brooklyn's favour in Game 3. The Raptors trailed almost the entire game, looked out of sorts offensively and defensively, and despite a furious comeback in the final 4 minutes, you felt there were no positives to take away besides "this team never quits." I really felt that the Raptors needed to steal that game, because they showed me nothing that made me believe they'd win Game 4. When the news came out pre-game that Landry Fields, was out with a bad back, you could sense people writing the Raptors off. But this team showed us what we've seen from them all season -- no matter the odds, they're never out of it.
Right from the opening tip, Kyle Lowry was limping due to the knee injury he picked up last game. It didn't seem to affect him though, as the Raptors came out firing on offence. They had much more motion and more importantly, weren't turning the ball over as they took a 35-22 lead after the first quarter. The second quarter began with Brooklyn picking up some of their offensive rhythm as they traded baskets with DeMar DeRozan. As the quarter wore on however, Brooklyn started to gain control of the pace of the game. The stagnant offence that we all came to hate during the course of the series reared its ugly head once again, as the Nets cut the lead to 51-44 at half.
And while all fans hoped that the regression was just a 6 minute flash in the pan, the third quarter was an abominable display of basketball by the Toronto Raptors. They had spells where they went 1/16 from the field, were outscored by Paul Pierce 10-8 in the quarter, and missed 4 shots in one possession. The team looked collectively completely out of sorts. The wheels had completely come off, and I was just about ready to call this one a done deal. Going into the 4th quarter tied 67-67, but the momentum firmly in BKN's corner, you'd have been forgiven for thinking the Raps were toast. The Raptors regained some of their composure by going inside to Jonas Valanciunas and biding time with Amir and Kyle Lowry in deep foul trouble. After a massive 3 pointer by Greivis Vasquez stretched the lead to 4, a series of offensive fouls by Brooklyn and some sparkling defence by Toronto put the Raptors in the clear. It was as gutsy a win as you'll see in these playoffs.
- Kyle Lowry: Lowry was there when the Raptors needed him most. Limping badly all game, in foul trouble, the team coming apart at the seams, Lowry did most of the dirty work to drag this game into Toronto's favour. He had 12 points in the second half (22 in total), along with 4 rebounds and a crucial steal on a Paul Pierce fast break with a minute left. Watching him will this team to victory on a bum knee will be an iconic image for me.
- DeMar DeRozan: Yes, he was horrendous in the 2nd half, and was partially to blame for the Raptors' collective panic attack in the third quarter. However, the reason the Raptors were able to weather their own poor play was due to the cushion DeMar helped build in the first half. He had 20 points at half time, and his mid range game was dialed in.
- Amir Johnson & Greivis Vasquez: When Amir Johnson's played well this series, the Raptors have won. Is it that simple? Probably not, but there's certainly reason to believe that when he's performing well, the Raptors' supposed weakness at the 4 spot becomes a little bit easier to weather. As for General Greivis, with Terrence Ross giving you nothing from the 2-guard spot, his solidity off the bench is vital for this team. 17 and 7 for Amir, 9, 6, and 6 for Vasquez, and a huge three pointer to boot.
- Terrence Ross: It's no fun picking on Ross when he's down. But seriously, he's been awful. His defence on Deron Williams was much improved, but he's still shockingly low on confidence on the offensive end. Don't be surprised to see Vasquez getting more and more of his minutes as this series wears on.
- Middle 2 Quarters: That's the second straight game now that we've seen the Raptors totally fall apart in the 2nd and 3rd quarters. The Raptors scored 32 points in that time frame, and shot 11-38. I know. HOW DID THEY WIN, AGAIN? They have to learn to weather the storm, and not lose their flow on offence. Runs happen, but you can't fall apart every game.