The Toronto Raptors looked to have the game in hand with six and a half minutes to go in their tilt against the surging Brooklyn Nets tonight. They were up 94-87 when the Nets went on a 7-0 run to tie the game 94 all.
Valanciunas came through again, and slammed home an offensive rebound. Pierce was then fouled by JV in a questionable call, for which I ask the referee to look up the rule book to where it says defenders are entitled to their own space, even vertically.
Pierce hit one of two free throws to bring the Nets lead to 3. Both teams then had failed possessions by misses at the rim, including Kevin Garnett botching a simple lay-in that would have seen the lead stretched to 5.
Instead, Greivis Vasquez, playing in Demar Derozan’s spot as a result of an injury, made a lay-up to cut the lead to 1 with a minute and 15 seconds to go.
A few misses, a turnover, and then a charging call on Kyle Lowry brought the clock to 19.8 seconds which then lead to Paul Pierce getting fouled off the inbounds and was sent to the line, where he made both, making the score 103-100.
After a 20-second time out, the Toronto Raptors got an easy bucket, as John Salmons got by Pierce, and saw empty paint, with the other Nets defenders closely guarding their marks to avoid a game-tying 3.
The Nets then burned their last time out to substitute better free throw shooters. Meanwhile, Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey substituted Steve Novak for Patrick Patterson, in a defence-for-offence switch. This would prove to be a smart decision.
The Nets who after the time out would get to inbound the ball past half court, then tried to play it tricky, lobbing a pass to Deron Williams on the Nets side of the floor. Patterson came through and stole the bad pass, found Kyle Lowry who dribbled towards the hoop and passed off to guess who, Patterson.
He calmly pump faked a fast closing Williams, and sank the shot to push the Raptors to an improbable 104-103 lead.
Paul Pierce nearly gave me a heart attack, as he just barely came up short on a long 3 as he was draped by defenders, giving the Toronto Raptors their most exciting win. It was also one of their best, with Brooklyn playing their best basketball of the season, even without Brook Lopez.
Before I forget, there was indeed another 42 minutes of basketball tonight.
Kyle Lowry played huge for the Raptors, as he finished with 31 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds. He also picked up the defensive pressure and finished with 5 steals.
Oddly enough, he has been the topic of fresh speculation, with the Toronto Raptors supposedly still shopping Lowry. After this performance, and performances over the last two months, his value has never been higher.
Jonas Valanciunas had his best game of the campaign, as he scored a season best 20 points to go along with 13 rebounds. The big man has been a disappointment to some, but a game like this shows he has the potential to be one of the best centers in the league.
Patterson, the hero of the hour, scored 15 points off the bench and added 5 rebounds and 2 steals.
In a strange experiment due to Derozans injury, little used Steve Novak started tonight at power forward. This left Amir Johnson to slide over to the small forward slot, which saw him routinely matched up with Pierce. Whether by design or not, Pierce was able to torch Amir late and he finished with 33 points.
Patterson redeemed himself in this one, as he had a late airball on a 3. He also managed to leave Pierce wide open for a made 3 when Casey substituted Patterson for Amir when Pierce had just scored two 3-pointers on him.
The Nets, who are now right behind the Toronto Raptors for the Atlantic division lead see their record drop to 20-23 while the Raptors are now 23-21.
The Raptors will next take on the Orlando Magic at home Wednesday, who at 12-33, are one of the worst teams in the league.
Notes: Terrence Ross had 10 points, a game after tying the Toronto Raptors franchise record with 51 points…. Steve Novak missed all of his shots and scored no points in his first(and hopefully only) start of the season…The players acquired from the Sacramento Kings in the Rudy Gay trade were the only players to come off the bench.