The 4th quarter has been a strong point for the Toronto Raptors this entire season, but tonight the Brooklyn Nets flipped the script and had a near miraculous 4th quarter comeback of their own. A scorching hot start in the 1st half allowed the Raptors to be up as much as 26 points in the 3rd quarter, and holding a 22 point lead going into the fourth. It took the Nets all of 9 minutes to erase the 22 point deficit and tie the game in the 4th quarter on a Joe Johnson 3 pointer with 3:19 to go. The Raptors were outscored 44-24 in the 4th, but narrowly escaped with a game 5 victory over the Nets. Thanks to two clutch baskets by Kyle Lowry in the final minute of play, the Raptors held on to win 115-113 and take a 3-2 series lead.
Behind a brilliant 36 point shooting performance (11/19 FG, 8/10 FT, 6/9 3PT) by Kyle Lowry, the Raptors were able to avoid the biggest collapse in the NBA Playoffs history as no team has blown a 22 point lead after the 3rd quarter.
Raptors coach Dwane Casey’s emotions during the near 4th quarter collapse by the team were apparent when the cameras showed him during the team’s timeout huddle. He expanded on his thoughts during the post-game press conference.
“My emotions [during the 4th quarter]? You wouldn’t want to hear it,” Casey said. “We just didn’t play smart. They are a very veteran team and they’re going to take advantage of the mistakes you make. We wrote a book on the mistakes we made in the 4th quarter. We’ve been a better team in the 4th quarter, they flipped it on us tonight.”
Casey continued by mentioning the veteran presence of the Brooklyn Nets players, who did not have their two most veteran players–Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett–on the court in the 4th, but rather played a lineup of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Alan Anderson, Mirza Teletovic, and Andray Blatche, as key to helping the team score 44 points in the final quarter.
“Intelligence, that’s why it’s hard to win in this league without veteran players. They used their veteran experience to get back into the game. You saw it they scored 44 points in the 4th, and every mistake that you could think about we made in the 4th quarter,” Casey said.
Focusing specifically on what the team did wrong, Coach Casey pointed to trading baskets and lack of attention to detail that allowed the Nets to go on the run that they did.
“We got caught up on the offensive end, we scored and thought it was going to be tit for tat. They come down, they shoot a three and we’re getting twos, and we’re fouling 3 point shooters,” said Casey about the team’s lack of defense down the stretch. “We opened the floodgates with our lack of attention to detail and we hadn’t done that the entire series. So we have to go back to the drawing board tomorrow and correct some of those defensive mistakes.”
At the end of the day, Dwane Casey views the 4th quarter as a learning experience for the young inexperienced Raptors squad, but a costly learning experience at that.
“We gotta learn. Tonight was a learning experience in a playoff atmosphere, and that’s a hard place to learn,” Casey said.
“This game tonight, we’ve gotta learn from it. So many learning experiences from tonight’s game. Handling the league, withstanding prosperity, embracing pressure. We gotta do that from top to bottom.”
“We made mistakes, but not as many going down the stretch,” Casey said. “Young team, expected mistakes, but we’ve got to crack the whip and learn from them. And this is a hell of a time to start learning, going into game 6 of the playoffs.”
The Toronto Raptors now have a chance to close it out and win their first playoff series since 2001, when they play the Brooklyn Nets in Game 6 on Friday in Brooklyn.